10 December 2007

Dark as Night

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.


  1. how disorienting and yet completely, beautifully oriented....

  2. I love that blackness. It's like walking through concentrated nothing, if that makes sense. That total darkness that makes you understand why the ancients made darkness wicked.

  3. This was so beautifully written, as others have stated.

    I am a wienie and probably would have been scared.

  4. Thanks for sharing that experience. I loved reading it, because it is a rare experience that I don't think I've ever had. I've been out on the occasional dark night but as soon as my eyes adjusted I could see.
    wait...now that I think of it, the nearest experience I've had is in some caves where the guide turned the lights out. Darkness, true darkness, is an amazing thing.

  5. Sometimes in that dark of night, i can only navigate by looking up. Sometimes it id too dark even for that.


  6. qt is a wienie.

    i'd love to see a picture of this. not the wienie. the dark as night.

  7. there goes jen breaking my flow, but yes, qt is a total wienie. in some circles she's called worse. and the dark of night sounds fab.

  8. I'm getting the strange urge to defend poor qt, whom I don't even know! :-)

    I've only ever lived in big cities and have never experienced darkness so complete. What a wonderful description!

  9. people are often impatient with the dark, and don't let themselve adjust to it, and learn that they don't need more light.

    when I worked at a camp i carried a flashlight at night, but rarely used it. i loved walking in the dark. thanks for reminding me

  10. Wow... that was tangible darkness, I felt it all the way over here.

    Such a good post, thank you!

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

  11. This post was wonderfully atmospheric.

    BTW, I finally did the meme.

  12. awww...you guys are always so nice about my writing!!!

    And funnily enough, QT, I have never been scared of the dark. I don't know why. I just never have been.

    Meno, it was definately way too dark to orient by looking up - the kind of black where you only know what up is because your feet seem to be in the opposite direction.

    Sally Forth, it's like velvet that darkness, as if the air were velvet but you can't see it. Somehow though I can't see it as being wicked although I suppose enough people do.

    mad hatter, oh brava on doing the meme...I will check it out soon (as soon as I get off dial up).

  13. Thank you for taking me on this walk with you. My heart was captivated by the darkness.

  14. hele, we make good walking partners don't we? Even though we're in opposite hemispheres.


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