The rains came at the end of December and have since called this place home.It is not the countryside, rather a despondency that blooms in the midst of this cold winter downpour. Those in the parts of the world where such weather is commonplace probably bare it away silently, knowing year after year that such is their fate. Here in southern North America, this bleak, relentless drenching has transformed myriad normal men and women into so many agitated, forlorn creatures.
The wearing down of the spirit by natural means such as continuous dark, damp days is in no way sinister.In that light, this indifferent water torture shows a modicum of kindness. The spirit breaking inventions used by one human on another cut more profoundly, with much greater precision. Cruelty is intentional, and therefore personal. Such malevolent behavior, like the weather, is sometimes predictable, sometimes not.
Confronting darkness in any form, be it natural or man-made presents each of us with the opportunity to choose a response.With rare exception, we can decide whether to reflect or reject the shadows cast upon us.Reacting on impulse is natural, but void of the benefit of circumspection.Stepping back, taking stock, digging deep and choosing a way forward that lies outside readily ostensible options, a path that leads us back to the light, that is the work of living.
Absolute darkness is hard to come by in this modern world.Light leaks through nighttime windows from streetlights, headlights, searchlights, the moon, lightning storms and even fireworks on the occasional holiday.Electric clocks, power strips, TV and stereo power lamps come to life in a ghostly glow once the sun has gone down.For some such lights are a nuisance, for others these dim reminders of day are insufficient.There are those who are uncomfortable in the dark and those for whom the realm of sleep cannot be deep black enough.Which are you?
I believe, and say “believe” because I cannot remember for sure, that as a boy I favored the company of a night light.Things that go bump in the dark might have been, at that time in my life more manageable when seen rather than merely heard.Now I find that the best sort of night is one in which I can find nothing; no shapes, no glimmer, no semblance of the living world.Perhaps the days are now so full of goings on that the only way to achieve true respite is in the nothingness of absolute black.Odd because nothingness is a constant topic of internal dialogue that I bandy about in the face of the ceaseless onslaught of is-ness that has become the definition of this modern life.
Fear of heights, fear of snakes, fear of the dark, fear of anything, all, in my opinion, are the children of the fear of death; fear of that which we cannot avoid no matter how we twist and turn.I like the dark, I actually like snakes, but I have a dizzying visceral breakdown when faced with heights.That last issue must be the reason I learned to skydive.Interestingly when one falls from umpteen thousand feet the prep time between plane and landing allows for some free will and planning.As I write this I’m happy to say, though clearly it needn’t be said since here I am, that the process has been survivable. Its been amazing actually.I like-ish facing fears; it’s fascinating, life-affirming and potentially boundary, if not leg breaking.But what if I were afraid of something as unavoidable as the dark.
A power outage leads the prepared household to a closet stocked with flashlights and candles, perhaps even a battery powered radio.For the well-to-do who’ve prepared for The Purge, it may even lead to a generator or a full-on panic room.I like a good power outage, except for the havoc it may wreak on whatever frozen food I’m hoarding at the time in my ancient fridge.I even have a few decent flashlights and a couple candles hidden away just in case.I still have kids at the house, so I have to be ready to turn whatever happens into an adventure that isn’t entirely lived out in abject what-the-fuck blackness.
But back to night lights for a sec.They do serve a purpose, for some, for a time.They may alleviate fear; affording calm to those needing a tinge of day in their night. The also can make it possible for a nearly comatose person to reach the fridge for that super unnecessary midnight snack, without breaking a toe.Not my thing, but to each his or her own.Have your night lights if you will, and may they bring peace and restful sleep. I’ll be the one dancing with my vertigo, dizzy and sweating on the ladder in broad daylight cleaning a gutter, hoping I’m able to make it back to earth alive.
Night fell hours ago.As dusk settled over the barren desert landscape, I switched on the headlights.The hum of the engine seems to drum in rhythm with the broken white lines that define the two sides of this strip of desolate highway.Darkness envelopes the world leaving only that which is directly before me to consider.The interior lighting of the console wraps me in a soft amber glow.The high beams offer about one hundred yards of insight into my future; my immediate future to be specific.I drive on in what I believe to be relative safety; confident in the precept that, though I cannot see my destination I will, in ever forward moving hundred yard increments, ultimately reach it.
In truth, though night fell years ago, decades ago, a lifetime ago, metaphorically speaking.The droning of the engine is comforting here in the desert, a white noise lullaby.One of my favorite memories from childhood, prior to the wise institution of seatbelt laws, was be to curled up on the bench back seat of my parents’ station wagon on the way home from some night time gathering.There in the darkness, I’d find comfort in the purr of the Dodge Polara engine and the gentle pitch and sway the given roadway afforded.The gatherings themselves were sometimes fun, sometimes awkward, these were my parents’ friends, who often happened to have children around my age.Regardless of how the evening went, whether I enjoyed it or simply endured it; I always looked forward to the comfort of the slow strobe of street lights reflecting off the vinyl upholstery. I would bury my face in the seam between the seat and backrest, welcoming the warm decent into dream state.
The white lines whip past me, ticking my journey off in nanoseconds.I see little more than these in my given hundred yards of illumination.An occasional signage alerts me to a coming lonely intersection, or town if one could call a desert gas station and closed motel a town, but that is about all I know of my next few minutes.So it has been with the daylight of my life as well.Many of us take life day by day, week by week or month by month.I count myself among that number.I drive through life using the throw of metaphorical headlights to see just far enough down the road to keep my foot on the accelerator.This approach has gotten me here, now, halfway across the southern border Joshua Tree National Park eastbound on U.S. Interstate 10 in the dead of night; speeding I might add, 95 in a 70mph zone.
What if instead of headlights I had searchlights?Of course, mounting searchlights to the roof of my car and plowing through the night might be perceived as incredibly inconsiderate by oncoming drivers, and likely more illegal than my 95 in a 70.But I think as I fly by another desolate rest stop, what would my life be like if I used searchlights to illuminate the future?How would my understanding of this present moment change?Hundreds of miles of possibilities, opportunities and choices would suddenly be illuminated in the space that was once a desert of impenetrable darkness.Some have done so, or we wouldn’t have electric lights at all.