Tuesday, August 19, 2008
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)