Light in darkness

Sep 3rd, 2006 | By | Category: Personal Columns

Growing up as a rustic, I found it hard to imagine that anyone could find any beauty in anything urban. With the possible exception of medieval buildings, I regarded anything of human making as necessarily inferior to nature. (It was only later in life that I reflected on the fact that the rural farming landscapes to which I was so attached were as much made by human hands as the concrete structures I so hated).

I remember being confused by Stephen Spender’s poem The Pylons. Was Spender suggesting that such hideous constructions had some redeeming qualities?

More recently, I have developed a fondness for motorways. More particularly, motorways on late summer evenings when the traffic is light and the skies are deep hues and when the first lights are being turned on. The lights, the whites and the reds, shine out of a deep and looming background. There is a reassurance about the passing cars, like the night light shining in your bedroom when you were a child.

It made me wonder, was it the darkness of late evening and the sprawling anonymity of a motorway that allowed the lights of a single car to assume a significance in the landscape? Is it only when the world is a dark and threateningly dangerous place that those who are the lights in our lives can truly shine?

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