I was thinking about that phrase "as black as night" the other night when it was so dark I couldn't tell the difference between my eyes open and them closed, the kind of discombobulating darkness, where you lose the edges of space and time. It's actually quite unusual for it to be that dark at night. Usually there is some firmament of stars reflecting light, or a high cloud cover that absorbs and reflects light or even a bright moon that may make a winter's northern night seem brighter then day, bright enough to cast shadows on the snow. Often, being under the canopy of trees will make it darker but if there is even a glimmer of snow on the ground you can see your path without the aid of light and when out by the ocean the very movement of the water usually reflects light. Last night was the oily kind of darkness though that forces you to walk by feel and by sound.
I know my route fairly well. At this time of year I tend to walk the abandoned path along the shoreline precisely because it is more light and also because we are less likely to surprise a grumpy moose there and because I love walking the shoreline even in the wind with roaring waves and pounding sleet and having it mostly to ourselves. I always have a headlamp in the pockets of my winter coats because at this time of year you never know when you'll need one but I like to walk without a light. Artificial light can be so exclusive of the night and the sounds and by it's very brightness it can reduce the details of the world around. Even on this darkest of nights I left my light off.
I navigated by the feel and sound of ground under my foot. The slick, smooth accompanied by light cracking noises of the ice along the path edges, the slowly crumpling feel & muted sound of frozen grass, the firmer but yet slightly pebbled feeling and grit grinding noises of the paved path, the rough uneven surface of the rocky shore, the sound of rocks tumbling against each other. I kept the sound of the ocean, it's surface not visible, to my left as I headed out and to my right as I returned. I could not see the Disreputable Dog but I could hear the jangling of his collar in the wind and from time to time I would call him to me just to be sure. And I wondered, what does it mean when someone says "as black" or "as dark as night"? For surely this kind of night comes seldom even here when night last longer then most places.