I remember walking on the path that ran beside the lake. Maybe it was that same summer afternoon, the light just beginning to fade into evening. It always seems to be that time of day when I remember being in that place.
It always seems to be that time of day in many of my memories. So many places, so many times – but it always seems to be late afternoon, at the end of summer. Summer’s End. Day’s End. The falling of the light and the rising of the dark.
Why do we always say night falls? Night doesn’t fall. Night creeps up behind us and rises up, sweeping its cloak over us. Day is what falls, as the sun sets.
I remember days out; days with friends; days with family. I remember days at school; days at work. I remember holidays, some here at home, and others abroad. And for many of them I can remember, if I think about it, the time of day. It might be early morning or midday, or a bright, blazing mid-afternoon in high summer – but I have to think hard. I have to force myself to remember the morning fog, or the warm, dazzling daylight. Because if I don’t make a conscious effort, my mind lets every memory sink into that same late afternoon in autumn. Every scene cast into the low light of the sinking sun; the shadows sliding up trees and buildings, surrounding me; the cold rising up from earth and from stone.
The memories, I think, aren’t showing me a real sun setting in a real sky. They’re showing me the feelings I associate with the memories. There is a melancholy feel to the air on that day; that day which is all days. It pervades my memories. There is light there: it’s not night-time, nor even far into the evening. It’s afternoon – there’s still sunlight. The sky is still blue, though perhaps deepening. It’s still warm in the light. But the night is coming, and it brings the cold.
But I’m walking along the path, the gravel crunching under my feet. There is light to either side, though the path itself is half-shadowed all the way along. Up ahead, it bends out of sight to the left, and opens into sunlight. Further on, as it breaks off and runs away from the lake, I know it leads into a wooded area where there is always shade. After that, it’s another two or three miles until I’m home. And at home there’s light. There’s always light at home.