It’s all too easy to romanticize the dark as I sit warm and dry in my beautiful comfortable home gazing out at the redwood tree dancing with the wind and rain. Would I love these darkening days if I were living on the street? For as the sun withdraws, the cold intensifies. Would the dark night feel like the sweet womb in David Whyte’s poem? Or would the darkness need to be endured until the warmth of light returns? Would I proclaim my love of the dark more than fire as Rilke does? It’s easy for me to do so now, feeling safe in my home that has a lock on the door. Would I love the long night if I slept in a tent on a city street as a woman alone? Would I welcome all that the darkness pulls in- “powers and people”? Would I have “faith in the night”?
I don’t know. I know when sleeping out in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk and under the portico of a middle school in SF during a rainy week in February I was fearful of what the darkness might “pull in.” I didn’t rest easily in those good nights even as others that I knew and trusted slept close by. Not being able to see in the dark, I relied on my muted sense of hearing to alert me to danger or trouble. Over the course of the week, I slept from fatigue rather than yielding to the soft night. I did not have faith in the night then. Rather, I had faith in the people I knew who slept near me.
I love the dark. In the Oakland Hills where I live, the dark nights bring stillness and quiet. I wonder if it is ever still or quiet in a city. After dark in a city (or at least in SF) heavy road construction and repair is done. The vibration from jackhammers pulsed under me through the sidewalk I slept on that February. Garbage and recycling trucks clanged through the predawn darkness. At all hours of the night the streets were alive with people. People returning home, people partying, people arguing, loud people. There are simply different noises in the city when it is dark. There is not quiet. Nothing is still.
So, given physical safety and relative comfort I love these darkening days and nights. The dark pulls me to stay in, to pause from my usual activities, to rest and be still. Inspiration and healing arise from darkness. Laying on my mat during a Continuum intensive held for 5 days and nights in the dark, a vision appeared unexpectedly on the second day that soothed a childhood trauma. Buried in the dark earth of North Carolina with only my nostrils above ground, an underground universe of teeming life was revealed to me. Shape shifting in consciousness, I traveled through a world dark and fecund. Mystery is alive in the dark.
I know in my bones that I come from darkness. Is this because I was born on one of these short December days? Perhaps. And then again, we are all born out of darkness. It is during these December days and nights of gathering darkness that I, like Rilke, can feel a “great presence is moving near me.” And I too have faith in the night.