There’s something timeless about dusk, when the night has swept from the east and is high in the sky and the sun is rounding away from it. Yes, dusk marks a time, the time when day becomes night, but every day it returns – because in fact it is always there as we are turning. Look at this blue marble from afar: the sun is always on one side, and so there is never a time when it is not sunset, and night, and sunrise, and day; we just spin through the series on this carnival ride, around and around, and the entire rest of the universe seems to rise and fall, rise and fall. And when the sun sets, be it behind sharp lake or blocky buildings or torn mountain edge, it signals again the settling of daylife and the rising of nightlife.
And with the nightlife rises the night light: the moon, the stars, the planets. Night is not a cloak, not for these lesser lights; it is the removal of the obscuring effect of greater competition. Just as the best conversations in a party take place when (or where) the noise is subsided, the best moments with the reflecting moon and planets and the emitting distant stars come when the loud sun is out of the room. They are always there, these lights and reflectors, but if they are in the sky when the sun is in sight, they can hardly hold up against it. Some would be invisible without the sun – the moon and planets have no light of their own – but they are nearly nothing seen next to it; we need to turn from the one to see the others.
There is a word for those lesser lights that, just when the sun is sloping to other parties, sneak in the dark door opposite. A celestial body that rises at sunset or dusk is acronical. From our perspective they creep in behind the cornice of the planet’s edge, into the cone of its shadow, although in reality they are where they are at all times. But they are not acornical or aconical or even achronical. Oh, that last one, it has its appeal: the spelling achronical has been seen from time to time. But this word truly is outside of time; there is no chron in it. It comes from Latin acronychos, and the nych has become nic through a reconstrual by analogy. But though we may point our fingers to indicate the stars, this word has nothing to do with onycho-, the root referring to fingernails. Latin got it from Greek ἀκρόνυχος, which is formed from ἀκρο- akro- ‘high’ and νύξ nux ‘night’. What is acronical is high at night – rising when the sun sets and setting when the sun rises.
Which really means nothing more than that at that time, our ball of warm mud (with us on it) is between the sun and those night-high things. This interposition allows us to turn away from our local loud light and see in the shadow what is always there but not always noticeable.
Consider the idea that dreams run through your head night and day, always there, always stirring and steering your gently, but when you are awake the noise and light of outside life drown them out, hide them, keep you from noticing them at all. These dreams are the heavenly lesser lights of your mind’s sky. And the ones that come around just as the sun sets on your awakeness, the acronical dreams, are the ones you notice and remember, because the grand distraction, the great domination, the day of the brain, has quieted for a time.
Perhaps or perhaps not. Perhaps it is all a matter of perspective. The parallel may or may not shed light on the question, but that is not the main matter; to notice the small points, we need to shed dark on them. So here is to the acronical imaginings.