Here is a little story inspired by blog reader Colleen who was fascinated by a recent comment about some of our inky black nights in the woods. You can’t see your familiar hands, your feet, your journey to the mailbox.
(Now that the moon stretches into her fat belly every night it’s like soft lamplight amplified by the gleaming of stars. Except when it’s snowing, and the firmaments hide themselves behind clouds pregnant with heavy white maternity robes.)
Early November—Night surrounds pitch black. Cold shocks as you tentatively walk outside. No illuminating moon. Your aim: the mailbox, down the winding driveway. At first the porch lamp lights the way. You step cautiously as dark envelopes.
You clear the garage and now you’re by the cattail swamp, the deep ravine filled with raspberry and blackberry skeleton plants off to the right. You’re in no-man’s land. You can’t see anything but inky darkness. Your eyes strain to see something, anything, tree limbs, shadows, but you’re blind. Your feet feel driveway gravel. Your feet almost know the way to go, this way, that way, a little over here, a little over there. Your shoes crunch dried plants you know grow in the center of gravel.
And now—ah ha, great triumph! Your feet strike asphalt. You’re on the road, in blacktop land. Your mittened hand clutches that stamped envelope…where now is the mailbox? Your hand reaches out where it should be. Nothing. Air. You step this way, that way, your hand waving blindly in the darkness.
Coyote howls a distance away. You shiver. You won’t be afraid; you won’t scuttle back to the house without reaching that mailbox which you know is here.
Your feet discover blacktop’s edge. You must be close. Now you’re afraid you’ll ram right into the mailbox, but there—right here!—it’s here. Your hand opens the mailbox flap, gently deposits letter, moves red flag into upright position so mailman will know booty lies inside.
Far away the porch lamp gleams, a solitary light in inky blackness. Coyote barks again, closer now. Your feet step surer now, not because it’s easier to see, but because you’re heading home. You’ve found the unknown. You’ll surely find your way home again.
I chose a six-month sabbatical in a hermitage in the woods years ago, and I remember that moving through the woods at night, it was better NOT to use a flashlight but to allow the darkness to reveal itself and all that it contained as I moved……..it was a awesome time! thoroughly good!!!!
Thinking now about that gift of your six-month retreat in the woods and feeling the possibility of what such time might illuminate. Letting darkness reveal itself can banish so many fears, can’t it?
I thought I was the only one! There is a sort of strange fear in the experience for me. If I relax, I remember that I am quite blind without glasses and that my body has memorized the feel of the path, the smells along the way, and the sounds of what is present. This would be a really neat exercise–at least to me, for readers to write about the same sort of event. Though, maybe not here, in Kathy’s comments.
That would be very cool, Elisa. I always admire that you seem to have such a well-developed sense of smell. Perhaps we should just let our bodies lead so much more than we do…
This is wonderful…perfectly descriptive, first of all, of that feeling of being enveloped by the darkness, having to sense, remember and feel your way. Secondly, it’s an accurate metaphor for those times in our lives where we step into the unknown, and have to use all of our resources to find our way through. Your feeling of relief and familiarity at heading home warmed my spirits, remembering that feeling in my own heart. May we all, indeed, find our way home! Thanks, Kathy!
Cindy, I’ve heard it said that all moment are unknown and when we let go of our thoughts and beliefs and feelings about it our deepest self knows the way to go. It will find its way home.
I think if it was territory I was familiar with during the day, it would be like being inside a friendly cocoon.
If the journey was in unfamiliar territory, I think I’d sit my buns right down and stay put!
Unfamiliar territory in pitch blackness would be SO challenging! Once my car couldn’t climb the hill home–a long time ago–and it was necessary to walk the two miles. It was the dark of the moon and familiar only in the sense that it was a traveled road. But you couldn’t tell where the side of the road started or ended. It was impossible to sit uponst buns and wait in the snowy night. Guess it would depend on how cold it was… P.S. Do you ever think unfamiliar territory might become as comfortable as a friendly cocoon?
This is so eerie and so beautiful. I can actually “feel” the darkness and the urge to turn home towards the light. And the ending is what they used to call a “cliff hanger.” A wonderful post!
Glad you were walking alongside in the darkness, dorannrule. Thank you.
I know the exact same feeling when there is no moon to light your way…our home being totally enveloped in the dark as well.
Karen, we grow to appreciate that moon, don’t we? And when there is no light on at home it can be doubly challenging to find that welcoming front porch.
We do appreciate the moon. What is amazing is when there is snow on the ground during a full moon…it really lights the way.
It’s like a different world, isn’t it?
When I read your blog I always feel as if I am in the U.P. with you, going through your experiences with you.
Nancy (a.k.a “The Looper”)
Nancy, glad that you enjoy your trips to the U.P. even if they are on-line trips. Today it’s gray and snowing lightly and there are maybe five to six inches of fresh snow on the ground.
OOO new theme. Did I miss the change?
I hate going to my post box at night. I don’t like being alone in the dark and silence.
Kerry, I tried out several new themes at the end of my blogging break. So you did not miss the change–this was probably the first time you saw this one. It was hard to decide. None of them felt “just right”, even this one. Some of them highlighted photos and some highlighted words. In the end I chose one that made the stories look right to me. May change again!
I know just what you mean. I changed mine a few months ago. There are still things I am not keen on. Always going to be the was with the free themes I guess.
I recently wrote about night sky also. I love the deep rich dark. Love your new cactus (?) header too Kathy.
Tammy, glad you like the new blogging theme. Isn’t the darkness of the night sky so amazing? It opens our spirit to the Infinity of what we are, perhaps.
Somehow, experiencing the unknown and then moving towards home again makes one stronger, surer. A conqueror. ❤
Stacy, that is a good way to put it. Perhaps we’re a conqueror of our fears, of our tendencies to walk predictable paths. We’ve grown a little, perhaps.
it was like I was right there with you – so evocative of the dark and its grasp–really well written–you are a beautifully lyrical writer
Thanks for walking alongside, LouAnn. You are a good companion in the dark of the night. (And in the daylight of the computer screen, too.)
you are a beautiful writer —
Thank you, LouAnn.
@onthehomefrontandbeyond and she writes beautifully! 🙂
thank you Lyn
Beautiful! You just reached out and took my hand, guiding me through the spooky dark, stilling my fears!
I like the new look.
Carol, it wasn’t at all scary when we were together, was it? Begone, oh ancient fears… Glad you like the new blogging look. I tried out the looks of several themes during break. We’ll see if this stays around for a while.
Kathy, your story reminds me of the time I was up on Madeline Island visiting relatives of the ex. We had been at a party at a local hot spot called Leona’s. (back in the good ol’ days) And decided to go back to the place we were staying, so we walked. It was about a mile or so and it was pitch dark. There was 1 street light at the end of Leona’s driveway but after that nothing until we got to the street the house was on….and there was another street light there. The rest of the walk was on a country island road with no lights and no homes. Just woods. And above, millions of stars but no moon that night. And of course in the inky blackness, one’s imagination runs wild. Especially when hearing the woodland critters scurrying about in the trees on either side of the road. And I remember you saying at one point in a blog post that the woods are not at all quiet….and you are right. It was a noisy walk that night…the trees creaking and groaning in the light breeze. Pine cones dropping off the pine trees. Owls hooting. And all that scurrying! The thing that was most unsettling though, was that I could not even see my hand in front of my face. It was so strange to be in that complete darkness.
Your pictures are great….I cannot ever get any good night time pictures on my camera.
Brenda, what a wonderful description of walking in the dark on Madeline Island after your night at Leona’s. (I had to smile–that was my grandma’s name.) No, the woods are never quiet, are they? All that scurrying and croaking and groaning. Wasn’t it unique to have found yourself in that much complete darkness?
When night comes I feel a kinship with my ancestors for whom darkness was a dangerous time. That thrill of fear I feel just stepping into the dark reminds me that I haven’t really come that far.
Sybil, I wonder if that fear will ever go away? Probably not–sometimes it’s just the old Fight or Flight response as the body prepares for an encounter with the unknown. It’s good to relax past that response, isn’t it?
How is your friend from India doing? She was from India, I think..right? Very nice lady…made a guest post? She okay? Blessings!
Lyn, I think you mean Munira. She is from Pakistan and made a guest post here recently. Her blog address is: http://munzee72.wordpress.com/
She would probably love for you to ask that question on one of her posts.
I write several people from Pakistan. I have one guy and his wife who sends me pictures. They feed and house the poor and homeless.
Like your new theme, btw!
Thank you! Not sure if I’ll stick with it yet, but have enjoyed trying out new themes.
Check out this one I just came across…what do you t hink? http://PromiseBook.net The only thing is…I seem to have trouble with picture sizes. I don’t know if it’s just me or anyone else has that problem with this theme…but if I make t he picture size bigger in the edit mode, it only shows it smaller still. If you go to Daily Laugh and scroll down, you will see how the top two pics are smaller and as you go down they are bigger. The top two are since I changed themes. Can’t get them bigger than that. It’s a shame, because I love the theme. I might have to change it though.
Thanks, Lyn, I will check it out. As for technology and themes and picture sizes, I can give no advice. It’s still mostly a mystery to me!
I have had to figure out most things on my own re. wordpress..not very user friendly. I have not had that problem with any other theme, but I also just upgraded to IE 9 as well. I was using google chrome, but was informed by several highly intelligent computer experts (a man from Dell, and my father who builds computers, services them, and programs) that google chrome eventually destroys things in your computer and starts causing your computer to do all sorts of weird things. It was doing this to mine, which I had Dell tech staff walk into my computer and look around. They said it was Google Chrome. Once I uninstalled Google chrome, the problems ceased. So I recently upgraded IE, which things have been working really good now that I have, however, it could be the cause of the new theme I grabbed. Who knows! LOL.
Real nice venture down that dark road to the mailbox. I like the new theme; I like the thought that one can find their way home again out of the darkness. Ones feet knows the way; the nose could lead and the body could follow. But can one really go home again even if they could find their way.
I think our body, our deepest self, knows the way home, Linda. And I do believe that there is a “home” but it’s not outside of us. It’s within us, in the center of us, before the first thought or feeling birthed. Sometimes we have to suffer enough looking for a home outside of us before we realize that everything we were looking for existed closer than our next breath.
I love the way night is like a dark embrace. Here I especially love the photo looking up at the tree. Dizzying, isn’t it? As my friend MJ said in her blog today, “Happy Leftovers Day!”
Your words capture it: “night is a like a dark embrace.” And I suspect you’ve learned this the hard way. Are you still eating leftovers, Kathy? Barry’s finally finished up most of ours (although I did sneak in a leftover plate or so.)
From once fallow fields come great harvests! The cloak of darkness is so intriguing and you capture it so well!
Honoring those fallow fields, John, and the gifts they bring. You’ll have to go out to your new property and walk it during the dark of the moon. (OK, then again, maybe not…) 😉
Lovely! Very poetic, too. (But then you are.)
D’you know what it reminds me of, though? When I was in my twenties I took part in an encounter group (remember them?!) and was guided, blindfolded, down cellar stairs, outdoors and then told to feel the area around myself. I put my hand into a spider’s web I didn’t know was there and because I was using my tactile sense rather than my emotions, it didn’t frighten me. In fact, I was quite fascinated by it.
That is such an interesting story, Val. That something potentially frightening like a spider’s web could be simply fascinating. May we all learn from that…
A perfect description about making your way about in the dark, in territory that you feel like you know well…until you can’t see. I am always so sure I am going to fall off the other side of the road or run into the mailbox. Going back always seems so easy, though.
Love your caption on the first picture – you couldn’t have done better 🙂
Oh, oh! Nice new look, too!
Knowing YOU, you’d be RUNNING to the mailbox in the dark! 🙂 Glad you like the new look. We’ll see if it stays.
I used to love the blackness of the nights in the woods at our cottage years ago. Sometimes I felt I could almost reach out my hand and scoop it up…as though it had substance. It held a power and presence that would send me off to sleep wondering at its secrets..
What a lovely way to put it, Susan. As if you could scoop up the darkness. As if we could truly know its secrets… Thank you.
So these are the joys that would be mine if we changed from a p.o. box in town to home delivery in the country! On second thought, our driveway is so, SO long, and the mailbox would have to be on the other side of the highway. No, thank you. But I loved your story, Kathy, and the beautiful images.
Just think of the joys, Pamela! You might want to reconsider. There are adventures waiting for you in the dark of the moon all the way down that long, long winding driveway…
Glad you enjoyed the beauty of a dark night, Marianne.
I’ve been out in some of those black nights, but I’ve also been amazed at how much light the moon and stars provide on others. Outside is amazing!
Those stars and moon light our way with such grace, Lisa. And, yes, outside takes us into the amazing unknown.
I love the dark nights at the lake – so great for sleeping without all the street lights etc. As for wandering out IN it, I snuggle inside thank you.
Snuggling inside is so sweet and comforting, isn’t it, SuZen?
Pingback: Full circle « Simply here
Living in the woods seems scary esp. during the dark nights. God knows from where the snakes would fall. One needs courage. I would never step out to get anything in the dark.
Sonali, a good thing about living here is that snakes don’t fall from trees. I would be scared of walking outside at night in jungled places. Here it feels quite safe. Well, mostly quite safe. 🙂
The darkness of the new moon, the inky blackness in the woods. I know it well. When I leave my father’s house at night it is often a challenge to find my way from the porch, down the dirt driveway and to my car. Even with the porch light on the light doesn’t travel far enough to make a difference. Sometimes when I’m not so daring I request an escort, a brother-in-law with a flashlight. Even then I can’t see much and twigs will be snapping close by – creatures moving around in the dark woods. I quickly hop into my car, lock the doors and turn on the headlights! There is no way I would walk all the way to the end of the driveway to put a letter in the mailbox at night. You possess a lot of spunk, Kathy!
Somehow, Barbara, I knew you might have had this experience of manuevering around in the pitch dark. I do know what you mean about how the dark can be scary, although over the years have learned to sit a bit in the dark and listen to all that rustling and movement and relax into the not-knowing of it. It slowly begins to feel like a warm cocoon. Sometimes…. Thank you for coming by and reading.
Do you have fishers out there in your neck of the woods? My sister and her cat had an unpleasant encounter with one on a very dark night. Knowing of it makes me more wary than I might have been in the past…
We do have fishers, Barbara. I have only seen one up close in the woods these thirty-some years. I can understand why you would be wary after hearing about that encounter. (I suspect the fisher would have been after the cat rather than the sister…)
Kathy, I miss that darkness you describe. Soft, black velvet, endless. There is just so much light here, it never gets completely dark. I used to be really afraid of the dark, lots of different night fears as a kid. But now it feels, in some way, like home. Maybe not the right word but it’s the only one that fits in this moment.
Thank you for the inspiration to write this little story, Colleen. Thank you for finding your way to the home in the darkness, or at least becoming more comfortable with it. Me too.
I finally found my way back home to the Big Woods after a few weeks of blogging absence and found a beautifully written story that stirs up a lot of memories walking home from movies at the cottage under the light of the moon. Sometimes we’d bring our flashlights but it was more fun walking with them off and peering through the pitch to find our way home. Thanks for the memories. 🙂
My goodness, withershins, I can’t believe you are taking the time to go back and read all these ancient posts!! You are awesome. Actually, I tend to forget things so quickly that it’s kind of fun to review these “old” blogs with you. Holiday hugs, my friend, and welcome back to the Big Woods.
Thanks for the holiday hugs. Please consider them reciprocated. I sometimes wish my arms were long enough to wrap around distant friends. 🙂