Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Going nocturnal

As the days grow shorter, I sometimes find myself out on the trail before sunrise. This morning I got an especially early start, so it was quite dark in the woods. Some of the places I walk are pretty heavily traveled and there are plenty of other early risers around, but today I was someplace a little more remote. There wasn't a soul around but me...and whatever it was that went crashing through the trees at the sound of my approach.

I love the little thrill of uncertainty the darkness brings: Was that a squirrel? A deer? A skunk? A person? It could be anything, and the fact that there's no way of knowing presents a small challenge. I can decide to be uneasy, possibly even retreat to the safety of my car until the sun's up--or I can let go of my attachment to clarity and try to join the murky current of the night.

Moving through the darkness is much like being in the water. You're in another element, one that's less familiar but not unnatural. Consciousness shifts to accommodate the different sensations, the different requirements for navigating the environment. You feel the earth, roots and rocks underfoot more distinctly than you ever do in the light--you have to if you don't want to wind up sprawled on the ground. Your visual field is reduced to a few feet, so distance gives you only sound. Curiously, that makes both sight and hearing more acute.

There's a wonderful feeling of being awake that happens only in the dark. It's a kind of exaltation, a transformed sense of possibility that is unavailable in the well lit world.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
(Companion post at BitterGrace Notes)


Bozo said...

From the sublime to the sort-of, there is an old Dolly Parton song that goes:

Sometimes at night I think of old lovers I've known/
How holding them close has helped me not feel so alone/
Now lying beside you even their memories are gone/
Like stars in the night lost in the sweet light of dawn.

BitterGrace said...

That's beautiful--I don't know recognize that lyric at all. Do you know the name of the song? I'd love to go hunting for it at iTunes.

Bozo said...

The song is "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You." I don't think Dolly wrote it-- seems like it was somebody like Mel Street-- but she sings it like an angel.

David Maddox said...

I think it's Old Flames Cant Hold a Candle to you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXbIfwvihSA

BitterGrace said...

Oops, this is the result of lazy comment moderation--loyal readers replicating each other's work. Thanks, guys.

Bozo said...

OK, Wikipedia says "Old Flames" was written in the 70s by Pebe Sebert and Hugh Moffat. It has also been recorded by Merle Haggard, which sounds mighty cool.

leopoldo said...

Beautiful post. I've been lost in the woods many times, generally at dusk. The coming dawn would've made it easier for me to find my way out. Oh for a dog's night vision.

BitterGrace said...

Leo, you must train your new guy (or girl?) to take care of you and lead you home. Just like Lassie ;-)

Okay, about the song--Merle's on YouTube, too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjcAUFAGVCs

His vocal is every bit as great as Dolly's--can't really choose between 'em. The arrangement on Haggard's kinda overpowers him, unfortunately.