Dark Night: A Weekly Break From Distractions

For the past several months, I’ve been celebrating what I call Dark Night every Thursday, starting at dusk. I enjoyed it so much that I published a how-to website describing the framework I use for creating the night. My hope is that you can also have a night free from the distractions of the world. I sometimes like to describe the practice as “cosplaying a calm night of living off-grid.” I thought I would report in on how it’s been going and the little refinements I’ve made over time.

(To set the record straight, it’s Dark Night, not The Dark Night. Not Batman. But I may have picked the name just so I can throw that joke in there.)

I picked Thursday of every week as my Dark Night because events infrequently happen in my life on that evening. I have Puzzled Pint on Tuesdays. Pre-Covid, I had weekly things on Mondays and Wednesdays. Most things happen on the weekend. So Thursday felt like a good night for nesting at home.

It’s been a little bit of a struggle keeping on task for Dark Night. There have certainly been a few evenings when I really didn’t want to do it. To instead catch up on a streaming show or a video game. Or to work into the evening on home improvement projects. Or to forget it as “too much work to set up,” becoming a brain-dead Twitter zombie. (Keep in mind: the “work” to set it up is turning down the lights, lighting a few candles, putting on some music, and then finding an activity to do.) But honestly, the days I go into it feeling like I’d have better uses of my time, I find — and not too far into the evening — that I’m really enjoying things, and that skipping it would have been a mistake.

In summary, the practice has been a huge success. It’s been a healthy bit of personal/emotional/spiritual self-care added to my week. I use the time to disconnect and reflect. I’d like to share a few things specific to my practice.

To set the visual mood, I’ve used a combination of real candles, rechargeable color-changing electric “candle” lamps, and old-school hurricane lanterns. I heard warnings that the lanterns burn badly and leave a bunch of stinky black smoke. Maybe it’s the particular paraffin lamp oil I’m using but I don’t find that to be the case at all.

On Dark Night, I prefer to have music in the background. I started listening to my favorite radio station, First Wave on satellite radio. Ultimately, it felt too high-energy for the mood I wanted to cultivate. I then switched over to the 40s Junction station, which is my Sunday morning reading-the-newspaper station. It definitely sets a great mood. Most recently, I’ve found Theme Time Radio Hour, hosted by Bob Dylan. Each week has a topic — such as cars, time, mail, eyes, or coffee — with songs orbiting that theme. It’s always an eclectic mix of genres. He does a good job of narrating connections between songs — which depending on what I’m doing, is either a nice touch or highly distracting (like when reading).

As far as activities, I have mostly been reading on the Kindle. I found that I fell far behind on my reading lists during the pandemic. I got used to having leisure time on the bus during my commute for books, music, and podcasts. That whole thing went out the window when I started working from home. While I do greatly enjoy working out of the house, it’s been a struggle to carve out time for my former bus activities. I’ve only now started catching up on two years worth of podcasts (mostly deleting files, but being a full completionist for a few shows that I greatly admire). It took me a year and a half to finally get to the end of the book I’d been reading at the start of all this. But now, with Thursdays being big reading nights, I’m getting through my backlog at a decent clip. “I don’t have time for reading” has morphed into “I’m making an effort to make time for reading.”

I’ve also tried my hand at journaling and blogging on an e-ink screen. The first draft of this very post was written on a dark, contemplative Thursday night. This probably won’t be a regular activity, but I do like having time devoted to the practice if I feel I have an idea that needs to move from my head into written words.

If you feel like you can use a similar evening for yourself, please take a look through The Dark Night Guide and adopt some variation of it for yourself.

Posted in: Dear Diary

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Brian Enigma

Brian Enigma is a Portlander, manipulator of atoms & bits, minor-league blogger, and all-around great guy. He typically writes about the interesting “maker” projects he's working on, but sometimes veers off into puzzles, software, games, local news, and current events.

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