Book on the Delights of Dark, i.e. Nights

Book Review

After Dark subtitled “Walking into the Nights of Aotearoa” by Annette Lees. Published by Potton and Burton. Price $39.99. Reviewed by Tony Orman

Night is as certain as day and it occupies half our lives. Many people don’t know or appreciate the night time but I’ve found through fishing and hunting, you can get to like and enjoy it. In my early deerstalking days, as late teenagers, a group of us on Friday nights would venture from Wellington, north to Otaki and into the Tararua Ranges. This entailed walking in the dark to Field Hut by torchlight and then up to Kime Hut, atop the Tararua skyline.
You get used to it and your eyes surprisingly get accustomed to what little light – even in the dark – there is. 
In my trout fishing, I enjoy night fly fishing for trout.  I enjoy snapper fishing after dark too;. In fact the two biggest snapper I caught just on 18 lbs each were taken after dark on bright moonlit nights. But before the excitement of a hooked fish, I was at peace in the night air.
Moon or no moon, the night is embracing and again your eyes adjust to the point of even seeing where a trout rose and broke the surface.
Why shouldn’t a person enjoy the night? 
After all, much of New Zealand’s wildlife is nocturnal such as kiwis, wekas, moreporks (rurus), moths, caddis flies, bats, wetas, mice, rats and others. Often after sunset, any daytime wind has died and the night is still and restful.
And above on a clear night, the stars and Milky Way are something to stare and wonder at. Then there’s the Moon.
Author Annette Lees is a conservationist and ecologist and in “After Dark” she enters into an intriguing world that involves mythology, social history and Nature. The author shares her experiences of the night and of nocturnally active people such as lighthouse keepers, ecologists like herself, trampers, navigators and others – and inevitably ghosts.
Some black and white sketches such as of moreporks, kiwis, wetas,  a caddis moth, perhaps the moon here and there might have visually enhanced the pages. But once you’re immersed in the pages and the authors narrative, it’s a small point to cavil over.
The book is set out in chapters successively journeying from 5 pm to 4 am. As I delved into each chapter “hour by hour”, I found it increasingly absorbing and fascinating. It is a very enjoyable read.

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