The forest at night

This is what the forest looks like at night before your eyes adjust to the darkness

Many, many people have a fascination with the forest at night.  I have learned that at my other blog, Simply Here.  Very few people visit this blog which is mostly about painting word pictures and writing about spirituality.  It is not a conversational blog at all.

Sometimes I only write one or two blogs a month on Simply Here.  Other times, in a flurry, several blogs appear in the Mind’s eye and demand to be written.  An average of fifteen people a day stop by to read.  It’s a slow-paced blog with simple headlines like “Truth” or “Storm” or “Enough“.  (Although yesterday got wild and crazy and was about Raging.  Don’t visit yesterday’s blog unless you’re prepared.  It’s about the raging games our mind plays sometimes.  Not good polite dinner-time conversation.)

After a while you start to see murky shapes, angles, outlines of trees

Google has not discovered this little baby blog exists–except in the case of one trigger.  It is the words “Forest at night.”  Anyone who stumbles upon this blog arrives because they are fascinated by the words “Forest at night.”  I swear. 

It is probably because of the blog  Life and Death in the Forest


So last night I wondered if anyone over at Lake Superior Spirit was fascinated by the forest at night. 

First things first.  Nobody around here calls it the “forest”.  Forest seems to be an antiquated word, no longer much in use.  Maybe folks in other parts of the English-speaking world use the word “forest”.  We call it “the woods”.

The woods.  Everything wild and untamed with its seedlings and sturdy trees waving in the sky without houses and roads is called “the woods.” 

I wish it weren’t so.  I like the word “forest” much better.

There is something romantic and beautiful in the word “forest”.  Something green and medieval and eternal.  I am hoping this word refuses to get lost in its own woods.  Perhaps it will sprout anew in common usage.  We can only hope.

Branches creaking softly in the wind

Back to last night’s adventure.  Headed outside with Canon Rebel and tripod.  (Yes, tripod!  Ancient tripod from the 1960’s, but it works.)

Attach Rebel to tripod.  Set camera on various settings.  It refuses to cooperate.  It refuses to flash when I want it to flash.  “READ THE MANUAL, KATHY!” Barry says with great irritation.  Kathy refuses.  We can only hope, someday, that she gets tired of writing her stories and reads the manual.

Kathy grabs the baby Sony Cybershot, long neglected at the bottom of her purse, and wheels back outside.  YES!  The Cybershot complies.  Flash, flash, flash.  Let’s see what she’ll reveal.

At night in the forest everything sometimes seems sideways, unexpected

Morning arrives.  Download photos to discover…are you ready for this?  Nothing.  Black photos.  Emptiness.  Darkness.  Perfect pictures of the Forest at Night.

I begin tossing them in the Recycle Bin with great annoyance.  I am not in a good cheerful happy mood this morning.  However, suddenly, decide to put one of the perfectly black photos in Picasa’s software program and press the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button.

And look!  These are the photos (except for the first one) that appeared perfectly blank and dark on the screen a half hour ago.

What the dark hides

It’s amazing what darkness hides–and what it reveals.

What the darkness reveals

When was the last time you walked in the forest at night?  Were you afraid or peaceful?  Did coyotes yip, or spring peepers croack, or owls hoot?  Did little mice scurry by your feet, or deer paw at the earth?

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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38 Responses to The forest at night

  1. holessence says:

    Kathy – the second photograph is AMAZING! The last time I was in a forest at night I caught the warning scent of a skunk and hightailed it outta there!

  2. kiwidutch says:

    Amazing shots Kathy!
    I’m particular amazed that you managed to selvage so much from shots that were apparently just black and blank at first glance!
    I call them “forests”, “woods” just happens to be a word I very seldom use (singing “Teddy Bears Picnic” was the one and only example that came to mind after I racked my brains for several minutes to think of *any* instance I use the word “woods” LOL
    Your forest is beautiful at night (not sure I’d like to be lost in one at night) and I’ve never seen a coyote, have no clue what to do if I did, so yes those would bother me somewhat. Mice and the rest.. no problem.

    • Kathy says:

      That was the fun part, kiwidutch. Discovering that something actually existed beyond the blank shots! (I love the song “Teddy Bears Picnic”. Singing it softly right now.)

  3. The last time I was in the forest was 6 years ago. Considering where I moved from (was forest) to where I am now (no forest), well there is a park a REALLY nice one. The last time (6 years ago) I didn’t go walking at night, but by nightfall you could hear the wolfs on the other side of the mountain howling to each other it was REALLY pretty and amazing to hear.

  4. Dawn says:

    The closest I’ve ever been to being in “the woods” at night was while canoing up a little stream in the deep south in the middle of the night. And let me tell you that gave me the willies!

    • Kathy says:

      It’s interesting to contemplate what gives us the willies at night…and what comforts us. I have experienced both in the middle of the woods. I guess it’s some sense of safety that can calm us. Maybe that canoe didn’t provide enough of that! 🙂

  5. WOW that was awesome Kathy. I LOVE your pictures. You must be set up on a tripod I presume?? I love shooting at nite too but don’t much care for setting up to do it.

    I grew up calling the forest ‘the woods’ too. Of course I don’t think vermont is big enoug to have an actual forest, thus the reason why we all called it the woods. I loved playing in the woods during the day but never ventured near after dark. Maybe that’s why I found your pictures so inviting. The bare trees especially.

    • Kathy says:

      Allison, no, I was not set up on a tripod for these photos. That’s another reason why it’s amazing that they turned up. You are now making me wonder if a “forest” is somehow bigger than a “woods”. Although around here the woods are really big… Glad you like the bare trees. We are ready for some leaves around here.

  6. Kiah says:

    Mama, I tell people that I grew up in the forest!

  7. Karma says:

    Does hiking to the bathroom on a weekend camping trip once a year count as walking in the forest at night, LOL? If that’s the case I take several walks in the forest at night every summer! Once a raccoon stole a bag of hamburger buns at night and hubby attempted a chase in the forest at night – but it didn’t last long.
    Ms. Rebel shouldn’t refuse to flash when you tell her too (sounds funny this way doesn’t it?) Just have a quick peek in the manual! It isn’t that bad, I promise!

    • Kathy says:

      Umm, yes, Karma, that counts. LOL! I am laughing imagining your husband running after that raccoon. HOw funny! As for reading the Ms. Canon’s manual, I do not know what my resistance is about. Alas. I would rather tell stories. Someday…maybe…it a flurry…I’ll sit down and read and read.

      • Karma says:

        I can make the raccoon story funnier for you. My hubby is a police officer and he had his large, police-officer-like flashlight with him. He shined it right in the raccoon’s eyes as it was taking the buns, jumped up and yelled “Freeze, you b@$%@#d!” as he tried to retrieve the stolen buns. The rest of us at the campsite (we camp with two other families)were laughing hysterically and still tease him to this day. In fact at a get together later that year he was presented with this:

        • Kathy says:

          Karen, that story is a HOOT! I can just imagine him shouting that–and the rest of you cracking up hysterically! Just read this story to my husband. He thinks some of the boys at Isle Royale could equal this story…but unfortunately, you couldn’t write about it. Thanks again for making us laugh! (And going to the bathroom in the woods counts. Honest.)

  8. barb says:

    I like these grainy ghostly night shots. Sometimes at full Moon we go out at night into the “forest.” It’s amazing to walk the trails in the darkness with just the glow of the Moon as company.

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you, Barb. Are your trails easy to walk at night? If you walk on trails around here at night, you’re liable to fall down over sixteen fallen branches and logs and end up with a concusison. OK, I may be making that up. I haven’t tried it too many times! 🙂

      • barb says:

        See – I always come back to check if you replied… Well, I have only ever walked the trails at full Moon and then there is this wonderful light that makes everything seem magical. You can see what’s in front of you for sure. I have even done it on cross country skis and have never bumped into anything on the trail. I like doing it in winter when I’m sure the bears are hibernating – not sure it would be safe about now when the days are getting a bit warmer, and we have been warned the bears are roaming again.

        • Kathy says:

          Barb, I am so impressed that you come back to check!! (And you must have come back to check just a few minutes after I replied.) I am now imagining wonderful midnight cross country skis in Colorado. And thinking about those bears wandering as it gets warmer–yikes! Thank you for sharing this magical image.

  9. Marianne says:

    Hey Kathy, it looks like you’ve captured an orb in the first photo. Did you see the light round ball on the right side about middle? It looks like an orb to me. I love seeing orbs in photos.

    • Kathy says:

      Do you think, Marianne? I noticed some orbs on the other photos that I didn’t publish. I have a friend who is an expert at photographing orbs. Every night shot she takes has dozens and dozens in it. She could make a coffee table book filled with orb photos. Some of them look like angels, too. Really amazing.

      • Marianne says:

        They must be orbs, Kathy! I’d love to see your friends orb photos. A young healer named Adam usually has an abundance of orbs photographed at his workshops. Sometimes he can see them. They float above peoples heads in the audience. I read somewhere that they are energy beings, but don’t really know for sure.I wonder why they are round? What does your friend say they are? They are amazing.

        • Kathy says:

          Marianne, she isn’t a really close friend so I hesitate to ask to borrow her orb photos. The last time I saw her she ran forward to embrace me in a big bear hug and I shied away instinctively because it was right after gall bladder surgery. But–the next time we see one another–right after we give a 100% hug–I will see if it feels right to ask her. It would be wonderful to have a blog with photos of orbs.

  10. jeff vanderhorst says:

    Can you imagine what George Shiras would think about our modern equipment? Shiras was the first to photograph wildlife at nite by way of “flash” equipment. I bet he was as surprised as you Kathy when he developed his first attempts… To me there isn’t much that is as unsettling as being in the forest / woods / swamp at nite. I would guess there is some deep seated primal instinct that causes such. I still love it though, strange as it sounds!

    • Kathy says:

      Jeff, I am sure Shiras would be astounded at the changes in night photography! Thank you, by the way, for sharing about him. Did not know about him. I think you are right about the deep seated primal instinct that causes us to be unsettled.

  11. Robin says:

    I like the word forest better than woods, too. 🙂 And I love what you did with your dark photos.

    I like being in the forest at night. It can be calming, exciting, even a little frightening at times (especially on those dark, dark, new moon nights).

    • Kathy says:

      I am glad you like the word forest, too, Robin. I hope it catches on! And I am still amazed that those dark photos turned into something magical.

  12. I love this blog Kathy and the mood your created with your pictures and words. It happened to me also, black pictures brought back to life with Picasa. Surprise behind the grainy texture. Driving back home last night I listened to a radio broadcast about the symbolism of forest in litterature for instance : mainly darkness, unknown, evil spirits, a place where anything could happen. A particular book came to mind : “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathanael Hawthorne. I am rarely in the forest at night but at daytime it is a haven for me, a place to find peace and inspiration, a feeling of renewal particularly at this Season. Thank you for your interesting thoughts.

    • Kathy says:

      Isabelle, I am glad to hear that you’ve had the same experience with Picasa. Good thing we didn’t throw them away! I so agree with your thoughts of the forest as a place to find peace, inspiration and renewal. Thank goodness these areas still exist on our planet.

  13. bearyweather says:

    The woods here at night a week or so ago was magical. We still have tons of snow on the ground and the full moon at night is spectacular. It is like a blue daylight with reflections and shadows everywhere and extremely silent … I wish I would have gone out to take some pictures. To me, nights in the woods are much more special in the winter (the northern lights were great last week also) … the summer nights are usually just dark and full of critters running around (the ones I want to avoid).

    • Kathy says:

      Bearyweather, it’s interesting how the woods with snow on the ground can look enchanting. You still have lots of snow? Is it melting just a little bit? (smile). You are also lucky to have seen the northern lights. I don’t know if we have them around here lately…I am always sleeping by the time they appear.

  14. Barbara Rodgers says:

    What a wonderful surprise you had discovering your camera captured something after all! What stunning pictures – it makes your woods look so enchanting.

    I cannot remember the last time I walked in the woods at night, although the walk from my dad’s house to my car after dark is scary enough. Judging from the sounds reaching my ears on that short sprint there is A LOT of activity in the woods there at night in any given moment! One night I did turn on my headlights and saw two deer about twenty feet ahead of the car. Took a deep breath and wondered when I became such a fraidy-cat… Well, I guess it was about the time my sister reported seeing a coyote while walking her cat in the woods one dark evening. She scooped Bernie up and returned home lickety-split…

    • Kathy says:

      It was a wonderful surprise, Barbara. Something hidden in nothing! You are right–there is so much happening in the woods in any moment. I think our fear is because we can’t see clearly what the noise might be. We never know if it is simply a deer–or if it’s a coyote–or wolf–or even bear. Or if it’s a squirrel making all that noise.

  15. Susan Derozier says:

    Kathy – These are just STUNNING! When I read your incredible blog on “silence” I kept wanting to find time to respond and tell you about my 10 day experience in silence at my cottage on a northern river. In that I was going to mention to you the silence at night in the forest. I could only see the blackness but there was a substance and a density in the air that made me feel I could reach out and scoop up some of the night in my hand. I’ve never forgotten that sense of wonder and knowing of the physical presence of silence and night. I wish we could talk as you have touched me so powerfully. Thank you for all this beauty you share with us and for having the eyes that see (even when those eyes aren’t certain what they are seeing!)

    • Kathy says:

      I would like very much to hear more about your 10 day experience in silence when you were at your cottage. I am sure your experience with the silence enhanced all your senses and transported you beyond the everyday. I would love to talk with you, too! (We could talk on the phone…) So appreciate when you stop by and read and comment. You take everything in at such a deep level, it seems.

  16. Colleen says:

    Kathy, we have always used the word forest. We are forest people but your wonderful descriptions of the “woods” have always caught my imagination. They evoke images of something quite different from our west coast forests……

    Someday I would like to walk in your woods, to see what if feels like and to see the differences. And the similarities. Somehow it feels like a more gentle word.

    • Kathy says:

      You know, Colleen, you have taught me something today. I never once thought of the word “forest” as hard or less than gentle…and never once thought of the woods as “gentle.” You may be right. What an eye-opening possibility of looking at the world in a new way!
      Thank you sincerely.

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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