Thursday, September 24, 2015


I’ve been caught up in reading the book Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor. At first I thought it was going to be a book about how to walk through the trials of life – and in fact gave it to a friend, having never read it, who had been diagnosed with cancer. After skimming through an article in Time Magazine at a doctor’s office, I thought it might be appropriate for her and bought a copy. A practice I don’t really recommend. The book turned out to be not so much about learning to walk through our dark times but, fortunately, a delightful and thought-provoking book about how to reframe metaphorical and accept actual darkness. With the Super Harvest Full Moon Lunar Eclipse about to take place, reading and blogging about this book seemed serendipitous.

Ms. Brown took a year to study the dark and write about what it could potentially teach us. She dined at a trendy restaurant where real blind servers wait on customers in blindfolds. She spent half a day in a “wild” cave…the kind not open to the public. She walked in the dark to a meadow and waited for the full moon rise. She brought new light to the “darkness” often referred to in scripture, challenging some of the old dualistic ways of thinking. In the end, she concluded that we need as much “endarkenment” as we need 

There is something about the absence of light, AFTER the sun goes down, that has always comforted me. It is a time of no expectations. Work is done. No one is going to call or need anything. It feels freeing. When I go outside for my dog’s last circling of the grounds, the dark night feels claustrophobic, which is also comforting to me.  Her book resonated within me because I have always loved the night more than the morning. I considered myself a “night person” all through high school and college and the first 10 or 15 years of my 32-year marriage. As far back as I can remember, mornings were a struggle. Most fights with my mother were about getting up and getting going. Most of my marriage I always felt a bit guilty staying up late and getting up later than any of the other women I knew. Most “morning people” were complete enigmas to me. How could they possible wake up and bound out of bed, ready to take on the world, or at the very least their daily work? I need more transition time. After all, I was just doing something completely different in my dream as far as my brain and body were concerned.

I had a revelation once that I both hate to go to bed and hate to get out of bed, which can be quite the dilemma. Night people generally don’t get their vision for the day until sometime in the afternoon. It’s when the creative juices begin to flow, ideas come, energy increases…then it’s time to make dinner. Damn! This is probably why night people have not taken over the world. And once night people are in bed, that’s where they want to stay. My motto has always been,

“I don’t want to get up until I’m bored with lying down.”
I guess I enjoy my Theta and Alpha waves; those slower, more calming and creative brain waves we experience as we drift from deep sleep (delta waves) to being fully awake (Beta waves). In her book Ms. Taylor shares a theory that proposes humans were never meant to sleep continuously through the night. It theorizes that since the invention of artificial light, we stay up later (after it gets dark) and so our bodies need longer, deeper sleep, but it was not always this way. He believes that humans used to sleep for a sleep cycle, wake slowly, and then remain in that dreamy, sub-conscious state, when creative and spiritual thoughts were allowed to incubate for longer periods of time before entering a new sleep cycle. Now, when we wake in the middle of the night, we head for the medicine cabinet and don’t necessarily see it as something to embrace. But maybe we should.

One evening last week I decided follow Ms. Taylor’s lead and take a walk in the dark up our long gravel drive to view the night sky from the top. My German Shepherd, Cyon, well-equipped to maneuver without hesitation, trotted ahead of me until I couldn’t see her at all, coming back only to check on me now and then. I took a flashlight, purposing not to use it, unless I heard rustling in the bushes or up in the trees.  I failed miserably at this intention. 

At first I took my time, in order to both alleviate the only fear I had…falling…as well as let my eyes fully dilate to fully take in the light from the stars. But the further I got from the house, with its glowing windows and porch light, the darker it got and the more fearful I became of a 90-degree ankle turn or a full-fledged face plant. So the flashlight kept coming on just to see the condition of the rough road for the next few yards, then back off again. It wasn’t until I got to the top of the drive, overlooking the black fields and the shadows of distant hills, that I was able to spend time with the embracing darkness and the 200 billion stars of the Milky Way.
"Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."                 -Psalm 139:12
And this was one of her points...if darkness is as light...then both are Divine. She even goes so far as to say that, according to the Bible, God dwelt in darkness before light was even created, challenging our notion that darkness is bad and only light is good. And that maybe our negative perspectives of darkness have been learned.

While I stood there letting my eyes adjust, I kept thinking about all the nocturnal animals out in that opaqueness, some of them probably staring at me at that very moment. How much better their eyes are designed to see what remains cloaked for us. How much better their ability to hear and smell, embellishing night time instincts of hunting, caring for their young, or finding a mate. The darkness is almost as light to them, too. So much happens outside after we turn the last light off inside.

A few nights later I woke up and looked over at the bedroom window to see what tint of daylight was seeping through the curtain. When I saw none, I checked the clock, which, from my perspective, warned me in red lights that it was only 5:00 in the morning! Then I wrestled with a foreign idea: What if I got up right now and went outside? 

What?! But I’m very comfortable right where I am and still pretty groggy, I internally protested

What would Barbara do, I asked myself?  She would attend this fleeting darkness and be a guest of the sunrise.

Twenty-minutes later on the back deck, wrapped in a fleece blanket and sipping hot tea in the dark, I heard, for the first time in the morning, the Whipp-por-will singing his heart out. Way past breeding season, I wondered if he was now just praising the darkness of the night, or the coming light. 

I hope you will spend time outdoors experiencing the darkness of the Lunar Eclipse on September 27...make it a family affair.

In North America, the crest of the moon’s full phase comes on September 27  10:51 p.m. EDT with total eclipse at 10:47 pm
9:51 p.m CDT with total eclipse at 9:47 pm
8:51 p.m. MDT with total eclipse at 8:47 pm
7:51 p.m. PDT with total eclipse at 7:47 pm

1 comment:

DhatMyers said...

Thanks for sharing this thoughtful exploration of your experience and your willingness to try on a differing philosophy.