Light A Candle

Candle light
Image via Wikipedia

Do you ever wonder what life was like before we — in the more developed world at least — took electricity for granted?

Mirrors mattered, for their ability to reflect and magnify every available source of light. The crystal prisms of chandeliers amplified the glow of candles — chandelles, hence chandelier.

Candles were carefully trimmed and hoarded.

Traveling through inky darkness, whether by horse, carriage, boat or on foot, was a perilous undertaking as pirates, animals and highwaymen lay in wait. Not to mention perilous roads and conditions.

One of my favorite movie scenes ever is in Cabaret, when Sally and Brian sit on the floor in a room exclusively lit by candles.

I often start these long, cold, murky winter days by lighting candles on the shelf beside our bed. It’s a gentle way way to ease into the day, without the sudden, harsh illumination — wake up!!!! — of simply snapping on a light.

It’s also a lovely way to soothe yourself after a crazy, beeping, buzzing, over-caffeinated day. I love the snap of the match, the delicate blue moment of a wick lighting up, the surprising amount of light a cluster of candles does offer, enough to read by — preferably something written in the 18th. century!

We light candles every evening as we sit down to eat, votives whose glow softens the room.

When I visited Stockholm in late November — where the sun rose at 8:30 and was gone by 2:30 — candles were everywhere, even on the restaurant tables at lunch, creating a wholly different, (softer, gentler), mood for even the men in their suits having business lunches.

There is something centering and calming about staring into the flickering flame of a candle.

13 thoughts on “Light A Candle

  1. I love lighting candles at meal time during the darker months of the year. And lately I’ve taken to lighting one every morning, a ritual to honor my new habit of sitting in silence for 10 minutes. The flickering flame DOES help to center me – and it connects me with the long line of candle watchers stretching back through the centuries. Enjoyed this post!

  2. Oh you created a wonderful mental picture for me that I could see and feel and envelope myself in the ambiance of imagined candlelight. Thank you for that. I am inspired to light those pillars that sit, full of dust, on a regular basis!

  3. My students and I spoke about life before electricity last week – no internet, no television, no heaters – just candles, perhaps a fireplace, quiet conversation, books, and perhaps some knitting for the women. My teenage students were devastated, and I smiled and thought it might be lovely to go back in time.

    1. I pine for the days when conversation, face to face, actually mattered more than tech toys and disconnection. I think (with the addition of anesthesia and antibiotics) I’d like to time travel as well. I often feel I was born in the wrong century.

      So good to know you’re making your students think about other ways of being!

    1. It is such a profoundly different experience from electric or artificial light. I really wonder how much it affected behaviors then…imagine doing surgery by candlelight?! I’ve seen “courting candles” which measure out each hour….as much time as a man might hope to get at a time.

  4. Beautiful post, I love your description of the candle. It’s a form of lighting I love; but never really use. You’ve inspired me to light more candles and enjoy the softer glow. Thank you.

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