I arrived in the Pacific Northwest in January to 9 hours of daylight that quickly gave way to 16 hours in June. Now it’s dark again, plunged overnight by the loss of Daylight Savings. I found myself driving around at dusk yesterday doing errands and going shopping, and constantly reminding myself that it was only 5:30, stores were still open, and the lights on my truck worked fine. The equatorial part of me was wanting to curl down for the night, and the new life I now live requires me to “colonize the…night.”1 Not that we all dove in bed at sundown when I was growing up in the jungles of Ecuador, but light came from cooking fires, kerosene lamps, flashlights consuming short-lived non-alkaline batteries, and candles, all too expensive to burn for long. In our house we had the luxury of two Coleman lanterns Dad lit at 6 and put out at 9, the family’s bed-time. The only light after that was from the moon and stars if the clouds departed. Yet the people I grew up with moved around at night. Countless times I have stood on the edge of the pool of light from a lantern and suddenly a presence makes itself known at my elbow—a friend arrived unseen in the darkness. I have long thought their night vision was better than most.
Darkness within inspires a mirror of light. What is not seen elicits as much as what is seen. Comfort or fear, wisdom or folly, virtue and vice; they are all choices made as quickly in the dark as in the light, yet with different kinds of consequences. It has been said that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking (social darkness.) Darkness harbors both the dangers of unseen evil and the potential of yet un-apprehended wisdom. Both the tomb and the womb are dark. The great spiritual wisdom of the world bids us walk into the tomb, because the womb never comes first.
Maybe the Northwest carries spiritual wisdom in its days and nights.
1Koslofsky, Craig. Evening’s empire: a history of the night in early modern Europe. Cambridge University Press, 2011, 17. Other references occur in the book as well.