I’ve been thinking a lot about darkness. Pretty literally. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because I will eventually be working 3rd shift at my new job. Maybe it’s because I recently went camping and didn’t have access to a lot of artificial light. Or maybe because it cultivates a sense of quiet peace.
I’ve always enjoyed dim spaces. Evening fireplaces. Candles in the bath. Fireflies at dusk. Darkness is necessary, necessary and lovely because it invites you to fill it. Finally, you can see your own soft circle of glowing light apart from the commonly garish world, because it’s dark.
I love walking neighborhoods in the evenings in winter. I think I got the idea from the movie Home Alone. When Kevin is walking alone on the street, a family captures his attention as they go inside their home. The interplay between the darkness allowing him to see a glimpse into the family’s home through lit-up windows falls straight into you. Kevin then understands why he feels restless and is wandering. He realizes his longing for his own family and gives up his indignation at being left behind. I’m convinced that those pivotal connections for Kevin wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t dark outside. Maybe because the darkness can hold all of our honesty. We feel safer in the dark to admit to being ourselves- just as we are. We figure in the dark, it’s not as easy for people to see us, and therefore can’t easily judge us. Maybe this is why most counter-cultures exist in the dark.
They even recreate a similiar scene in Home Alone 2 (yes, I’m a complete sap). He’s walking the street again at night and again is able to see another little boy in the hospital window. They wave to each other through the darkness, and a spark is given to Kevin for vigilante justice on behalf of this boy and what he represents.
We are all given sparks. But such tiny flecks of light are much more noticeable at night. Some of my clearest thoughts and genuine motivations are when I’m in bed in the absolute dark. Paradoxically, I have to be blinded by darkness in order to better see who I am. The unknown that darkness presents to our sense of vision forces us to revert inward. It is the inside space, our inner selves, we can control when we can’t see into the darkness (although, we can’t really control much outside of ourselves even when it isn’t dark, but it’s easier to pretend we can during the day…) While in the movies Kevin almost made that trip inside-out accidently, I think we can actively practice and appreciate that same journey.
I then remembered that my favorite poet, Robert Frost, also had an appreciation for journeying through darkness. His poem called Good Hours does a good job of capturing why that scene in Home Alone was so beautiful to me:
“I had for my winter evening walk-
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.
And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.
I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.
Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,
At ten o’clock of a winter eve.”
To me, and maybe to Frost, darkness is not lonely. It is lovely, even hallowed. He willingly starts his walk when it’s already dark in the poem, and on his return journey when the windows go black, a reverence for the night makes even his footsteps upsetting. It’s because there’s something there in the nothing of darkness. In the inbetween time, before sunrise and after sunset a quiet, divine secret seeps into you. It is like you are witnessing the universe in the wild.
And you are. There’s not only waaaaay more dark matter/general darkness in our universe (like 50 times more!), but also that: “Earth’s solar system resides in the darkest part of the Milky Way Galaxy’s life-habitable zone. Even more interesting, the Milky Way resides in the darkest life-habitable region of its galaxy cluster, which lies in the darkest life-habitable region of its supercluster of galaxies.”
We really are shrouded and bathed in cosmic darkness. This is important, because it allows us to actually see and understand how we fit into the bigger picture. The link above describes that without being where we are located in the galaxy:
1). in a place that can support life and
2). where it is dark and not super close to other bright objects
-we couldn’t view a lot of the night sky. It would be like trying to study distant stars at two in the afternoon. Light doesn’t always allow you to see.
This is why I think we need more gratitude for darkness. My dad used to say that his mom would always see the traffic at nighttime and say “Look how rich we are with all the rubies and diamonds.” (The rubies were the brake lights and the diamonds the headlights.) I too see all those rubies and diamonds, but I also see richness in the hues of gray, dark blue, indigo, and black that makes the rubies and diamonds shine. I see darkness as peacefully and quietly sewing unity into, around, and between the fabric of our lives, our world, and our universe. We may be made of stars, but darkness lets us sparkle and for that I’m infinitely grateful.
I’ll leave you with first lines of the song “Somewhere in My Memory” from Home Alone:
“Candles in the window
Shadows painting the ceiling
Gazing at the fire glow…”
My hat’s off to you,