Wednesday, 9 November 2011

D is for DAY - Friko's Solitary Alphabet Game

Sun and Moon  -  Hartmann Schedel 1440-1514  -  Nuremburg Chronicle 

"A day is a unit of time, commonly defined as an interval equal to 24 hours. It also can mean that portion of the full day during which a location is illuminated by the light of the sun. The period of time measured from local noon to the following local noon is called a solar day." This is how Wikipedia starts the entry for DAY, very prosaically. Wikipedia's soul has no poetry.

Not like Philip Larkin, who asks:                                                     
What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in;
Where can we live but day?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
in their long coats
Running over the field.

I've asked the day for an answer, but answer came there none.

When Hemera, Greek goddess of the day, daughter of Erebos (Darkness) and Nyx (Night) and sister-wife to Aither (Light) sends the first finger of light to tickle my eyelids and then puts her whole hand on my face to awaken me, my first question is not: 'what will you do for me', but: what do you want me to do for you today'. It is the answer to the next question which will allow me to establish a plan: 'which of the seven days of the week are you?' 

It's hardly the riddle of the Theban Sphynx and my answer will not condemn me to be eaten by the beast; I know it must be morning and I shall walk on two legs, rather than four,  just as soon as I have thrown off the bed clothes.

Days are where we live. Diaries and appointment books are the signposts and the instruction manual allocates tasks for the day. Whether these tasks be pleasant or hard, perform them we must, with grace and diligence. That is the purpose of the day. How else will we deserve the solace of the evening? Mealtimes and playtimes provide sustenance, rest and recreation, if we use them well. If friends and friendly acquaintances play a role in our day then we are to be congratulated. Whether they alone can account for happiness, I couldn't say. Happiness is a rare gift, those of us who are passengers in Phoebus' chariot on his earth-circling journey may catch a glimpse of it, as momentary as the flash of the swallow's silver wing before it rises out of sight. I think Larkin is wrong when he says days are to be happy in, how could we bear unalloyed joy?

I need my dull routine, I want my signposts to point to well-trodden and comfortable paths and my mealtimes to be pleasant. To share my bread with friends will be a pleasure, fair-weather friends will find the boat is full. If pleasant conversation, not gossip, is your aim,  please ring the doorbell, or better still, call round the back where you will find an open door. 

I freely admit, my day is dull, and priest and doctor can do nothing about it. So stay where you are and tend to those who need you more. If I have been fortunate and have been granted a glimpse of the silver wing of happiness out of the corner of my eye, I'll even return your medicine.

In the evening, when  Hemera's mother Nyx draws a veil of darkness between the shining atmosphere of the aither and the lower air of earth (aer), bringing night to me, I'll draw my curtain too. If wine, 'God's next best gift to man' makes an appearance at that time, it will be welcome. And furthermore, when the day comes and my answer to the Sphynx's riddle must be 'three legs', I shall be grateful if my days shall have remained as dull as they are now.

With Stevie Smith, I'll gladly say:

Put out that Light,
Put out that bright Light,
Let darkness fall.

Put out that Day,
It is the time for nightfall.

Helius, Nyx and Hemera-Heos, Athenian
black-figure  lekythos C5th BC, Metropolitan Museum


  1. Another great post! You stayed within the classic references as you covered your modern rhythms. I admire your writing style...wish I was as good. I think you have the vocabulary, education and patience that we all could use when we attempt to convey our thoughts with words. Your moderation of life style is the one we all wish we had.

  2. Thank you for this glimpse of a light day very much ! Seems and feels as the overture, probably even Götterdämmerung is just about to start.

    daily athens photo

  3. "The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think!"
    (Edwin Schlossberg)
    You have certainly succeeded with this post!

  4. wow well spun...i look forward for when the light goes out and the day is done...

  5. I enjoyed reading this well written post.

  6. This is wonderful, Friko.

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  7. True, Wikipedia is soulless. You are the exact opposite. Your knowledge of the Greeks, of literature, of riddles, is amazing. Your routine may be routine, but the thoughts within that head of yours are anything but dull.

  8. You've packed so much into this post - literature, mythology, reflection, and even technology with the soulless Wikipedia.

    I was especially taken with the thought of performing daily tasks with grace and diligence. Today was my turn for a physical at the doctor's. Doctors and dentists make me crosser than anything and I don't display much grace. Of course, it's a little difficult to be graceful while clutching a paper gown to preserve some shred of modesty. Harrumph.

  9. I want to live a fashion that requires me to ask, "What day are you?" Every now and then that happens. I forget what day it is because I have no reason to consult a calendar or a clock. To be able to live without either, to live for each day as it arrives and departs, freely planning, or not, what you want to do without time and calendar restraints, now that would be heaven.

  10. A wonderfully thoughtful post with lots of gravity.

    Aloha from Honolulu

    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >


    < ° ) } } > <

  11. Great photographs shared here. I have never seen such scenes before in my life. I am very impressed by it. It is really superb looking.

  12. Hello:
    How we should love to share a dull day with you! For, we are certain that such an acute observer of life and its insignificant details as you will have so much delicious conversation to share.

    But, how we delight in the day! A playground for our imaginations now that the world of work is behind us. And, all passion spent, we embrace the night as a great restorer for the next day to come!!

  13. A very nice essay on the Day. I hadn't seen the Larkin poem before - thank you ! :)

  14. I'm quite surprised to find Larkin in such a happy mood to be honest - he's not famous for his sunny dispisition

  15. I read this at 8 a.m. -- and you've certainly inspired me to make the most of this day!

    P.S. I hope you'll grace us now and then with little stories or vignettes from your ongoing memoir.

  16. Well done Friko. I love the Greek and Roman stories. I love everything connected to our cosmos' mythology. The sun and the moon are my companions during the days and sleepless nights.

    But, the moon is my special friend.

    My father named me for Diana, and my mother changed it to the French spelling. They never could get their stories straight.


  17. If only diligence and grace went always hand in hand ......

  18. Interesting and I like the first picture.


  19. Dull can be very soothing - and I too, am a fan of Larkin. And all you write.

  20. What remarkable writing my friend! So enjoyed.

  21. Dear Friko,
    Your posting today helped me reflect on the immoderation I often struggle with each morning as I lie toasty under the bedcovers.

    You suggest to us here that we view the day as a vista of possibility. That we fulfill the tasks of that day with grace and diligence. That we rejoice in the presence of friends and the security of dailiness. That we let ourselves dance within the rhythms of the day.

    Thank you for this lovely posting and for sharing with us your own equanimity.

    What I am hoping for you is that each day gives you some of its time to work on your memoir and to touch base with your past.

    Peace. And thank you for your thoughtful comment on my recent posting.

  22. I absolutely agree that dull days are the best. Today, for instance, there is nothing much that I am obliged to do (Dr appointments, hair cut, etc. yesterday). So I get to read interesting posts like yours -- and I love the idea of an alphabet of posts. Then I can think about what I might paint on Saturday when I go to a workshop, I can cook a nice little pork roast for Jerry and me for supper, watch my DVD on Victorian England, read my book (the current one is Mr Scarborough's Family) and go to bed for the night part of the 24 hour day. Very dull, very nice.

  23. Nice to see you're following your own alphabet journey. Happy travelling:-)

  24. How elegantly you've woven so many different strands together in post. Much to savor here--I will note just one beautiful thought, beautifully expressed:

    "Happiness is a rare gift, those of us who are passengers in Phoebus' chariot on his earth-circling journey may catch a glimpse of it, as momentary as the flash of the swallow's silver wing before it rises out of sight."

  25. Wonderful, Friko. Thank you! But I doubt that anyone as thought-full and observant as you could ever experience a truly dull day.

  26. Friko, over here in New York, we still getting used to last Sunday's official ending to our Daylight Saving Time. The nights are longer, the sun is with us less each day.

    However, what a treat this week...the moon grew to maximum fullness, and I've been able to catch a glimpse of this night light every evening on the way back from work. I've paused on the sidewalk, eyes up to the sky, wondering why no one else around me seems to be remotely interested in the golden glow from the sky.


  27. Interesting that the time-keeping day is a 24 hour period, yet we consider the day to be done at nightfall! How does that work??

    And somehow I don't think 'God's next best gift to man' is dependent on 'what day of the week is it?'?!?!

  28. Myth and structure--the components for just another day.

    Well said Friko!

  29. It's your fault you have so many comments to answer. If you'd stop writing such good posts, you've have more time to yourself.

  30. Wonderful post! Loved the writings

  31. What I find awesome is that each night when darkness comes we automatically expect the light of the day to follow.
    Happy November 11th.

  32. Thoughts about day wonderfully expressed.

  33. Dein Post hat mich sehr nachdenklich gestimmt... ich glaube, ich führe auch ein ganz einfaches Leben, aber ich habe nie den Eindruck, dass es einfach oder langweilig sei, eigenartig nicht?! Ich fühle mich frei... Zu nichts gezwungen (ich meine vor allem seelisch)und unfreiwillig verpflichtet sein, ist für mich sehr wichtig. Einengungen in jeder Hinsicht sind für mich erstickend... und auf all das haben mich Deine Gedanken jetzt
    gebracht... Wie Du auch sagst: alles, was man zu tun hat, sollte man in Ehre und mit Aufmerksamkeit bewerkstelligen... ja, ich denke, dieses Bewusstsein gibt einem das wirklich gute Gefühl und vielleicht sollte man auch versuchen, die Zeit nicht als Zeit(abschnitt) zu betrachten, sondern als Unendlichkeit mit allem, was sie mit sich bringt. Und wenn dies dann gelingt, wird man eine unendliche Freiheit verspüren, die Freiheit der Gedanken und die Freiheit der Entscheidungen... eine wahnsinnige Kraft, die man leider mit unserem "unsinnigen" Zeit-Gefühl ständig unterdrückt, so denke ich es mir...
    Dir ein helles wunderbares Wochenende mit vielen "bright thoughts", liebe Friko! Vielleicht kann ich dieses Wochenende schon schreiben, mal sehen... Dir ganz liebe Grüsse!

  34. I think the only truly dull day is one bereft of a sense of purpose. But regular, mundane things can be quite welcome. With so many people into such insatiable consumption of the NEW FUN BEST EXCITING...ugh, save me from that.


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