When friends from the city come to our home in the mountains they are always amazed at how dark it gets. After they’re awed by the power of the sunsets up here where the air is clear of smog and grit, they settle into a kind of eerie silence.
It’s like you can feel the idea of approaching night on the open land pulling at them, taking them back to a primordial memory of being one of a band of hunters huddled around a fire for protection against the noises in the night.
Then, as the sky turns deep blue, then purple and the stars wink into view and a slip of moon rises over the trees, the darkness falls like an eyelid on the world. That’s when they get real quiet. That’s when you can feel the wonder, the awe, the sheer amazement at the power of a rural darkness.
When there is no moon the quality of darkness here is absolute. When there’s only a slice of moon the world exists in shadow and stretches of blue-white light. Sometimes, when the moon is full the darkness becomes a puzzle to be solved with the eyes.
We forget all that when we live in cities. There we live in a strange orange or yellow glow at night. We live bathed in neon. Light is the absolute and darkness is relegated to those places the light won’t reach and we don’t learn it at all.
There’s an ancient magic to whole darkness. It’s the magic of shamans, seers and healers. It’s the magic that transforms us. We confront a power that is beyond our ability to negotiate with, to control, to change, alter, or arrange to suit us. It brings us to the realization of our proper size.
Darkness is where we meet our secrets. It’s where we confront our fears. It’s where our trolls and ogres and witches and beasties exist and we remember how small a species we really are. After a lifetime in the city darkness on the land reminds us all of that.
I like to watch how it affects them. I like to watch them go quiet. I like to watch them huddle closer to the fire. Because I know when the light returns, when morning breaks, they will emerge into it with a bigger idea of their place in the world and who they were created to be.