Thursday, November 15, 2007
The days are growing noticeably shorter. When it's rainy, as it was today, dusk seems to come even sooner. I find the shrinking daylight alarming in a visceral way, even though here in the house on Tennessee Avenue, circa 2007, many varieties of electrical lighting are available. In fact, it's hard for a modern gal like me to even imagine the deep inky darkness of unilluminated nighttime.
The closest I've been to truly dark night skies includes a couple of clear nights at witch camp in British Columbia, a night at a friend's ranch in Cazadero, California, and at a cabin I used to rent on the Mendocino coastline. Lake Tahoe was a place with some fairly dark nights, as was Ouray, Colorado. There were dark nights at Avebury in England, too, obscurred by streetlights, unfortunately. Put altogether, the memories I have of truly dark skies can be counted on one hand.
Real night is very very dark. Have you ever seen it? In a truly dark location, the stars and Milky Way are so bright that you can cast a shadow from the light. I always feel sad when I realize there is a whole generation of urban kids who have never seen the Milky Way, not ever. The star spangled sky is such a dazzling and inspirational sight. How does anyone manage to experience hope without it?
Strange to think that just one hundred years ago, everyone knew about the Milky Way, everyone had experienced a night so dark (during the dark of the moon) that it was impossible to do anything except tilt their heads back and gaze.
In spite of the wonders of a starry sky, when it's dark, it's dangerous. I've tripped and fallen every time I've been exposed to a very dark night. And, too, think about all the creatures who inhabit the dark: the lions, the tigers, the bears.
Oh my! Sometimes I try to imagine how frightening it must have been once upon a time, long before incandescent light. Just thinking about it makes me want to light as many candles as I can, as if I'm warding off the imagined darkness as a tribute to my ancestors.
Five weeks to go before winter solstice. Gosh. Better go buy another huge bag of tealights.
O, sweep of stars over Harlem streets,
O, little breath of oblivion that is night.
A city building
To a mother's song.
A city dreaming
To a lullaby.
Reach up your hand, dark boy, and take a star.
Out of the little breath of oblivion
That is night,