Betraying the Dark


Pull the cord, ignite the spark, betray the dark and feed the dream…

Stare away into the night and check your sight, head for the stars.

~ Michael Kang


I step onto the back deck and slip elegantly into my mud caked rubber boots. “Elegantly” you say? I put that in there just to see if you were paying attention or perhaps you are already distracted by the allure of another screen? I mean who the hell slips into rubber boots elegantly? Grace Kelly perhaps but certainly not yours truly.

Let’s begin again.

I step onto the back deck, cram (yes that’s more like it) my feet into my cold rubber boots. As I hasten off the deck in the darkness, I nearly fall on my ass on the frosty boards. Whew that was close. I continue on, as my heart thumps inside my chest, following a well-known path, feeling the wood chips beneath my feet. A metallic clink of the gate later and I am into the inky black darkness of the orchard. I turn towards the moveable chicken coop and see the silhouette of hens against the dark southern night sky. It’s a seeming world away from our light polluted back yard. As my eyes adjust, pupils enlarging to allow in more light, stars and planets emerge from the black night sky high overhead. Before I continue on with my task – putting the chickens in for the night – I stare up, amazed at all the twinkling light. “Twinkle twinkles” is what one young Kenyan kid called them. There is no more endearing or truthful name for stars in my book. It slowly dawns (perhaps “dusks” on me would be a more appropriate phrase) on me that most of what I see is dark and darkness. There is so much of it, in fact, that one can easily conclude that it is the foundation of everything.

And we have betrayed it by illuminating everything, perhaps in overcompensation for our fears. And now we have too much light and not enough dark.  We have so much light that many of us find it difficult to sleep, to turn off, to unplug, and to rest. As Clark Strand says in his forthcoming book “Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age”:

There’s no getting away from the light. There are fluorescent lights and halogen lights, stadium lights, streetlights, stoplights, headlights and billboard lights. There are night lights to stand sentinel in hallways, and the lit screens of cellphones to feed our addiction to information, even in the middle of the night. No wonder we have trouble sleeping. The lights are always on.

 And so while I love the symbology of light during our darkest time of the year (winter solstice), it may be best to turn off the lights and honor the dark. Let’s celebrate a time of year when we can slow down, be quiet and be still. Let’s simply stare up into the dark night sky and wonder at all there is, all there isn’t and all that we cannot see. And perhaps we will then realize that the universe is really, fundamentally and truly made up of stuff that we cannot see. This doesn’t mean “being in the dark” (i.e., ignorant); rather being delightfully and deliciously in the darkness.


2 Comments on “Betraying the Dark”

  1. Kelly says:

    Beautiful!!!! I’m so glad this dusked on you and you were able to share it (hilarious!). As a parent, I definitely appreciate the extra hours of darkness at bedtime and in the early morning. The kids sleep much better and longer this time of year, it’s amazing. And the rest of the year we’re trying to figure out how to make their rooms as dark as possible 🙂 Our chickens get to sleep longer as well. 🙂

    • dhlafever says:

      Thanks for that comment Kelly – particularly about kids and chickens sleeping longer. That is an important part of the darkness! This time of year is definitely a time of slowing down, which I think is so important for recharging our batteries so to speak and for doing the important work of introspection. In contrast, summer is a time to work alot during the long days and to be very outward. I mean who has the time during summer to read, write and contemplate? But winter’s blessed darkness is a time of quiet, stillness and taking an inward look. A beautiful balance!

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