Nighttime in the mountains. I go out to sit on the cabin porch in the cool evening air and almost fall down the few steps as my eyes haven’t adjusted to the darkness which immediately envelops me. Ensconced in the lounge chair, my eyes wide open as they can be, straining to take in every particle of light, I realize once again that darkness is a relative term. As my eyes adjust, I begin to see fairly distinctly: the logs of the cabin porch, the road almost gleaming in contrast to the darkness of the meadow, the shapes of large rocks. The pines are a Scherenschnitte cut-out against the sky. A few indistinct horse shapes move slowing and quietly as they settle for the night but I have to look slightly to the side to see them better. I can’t get any pictures because it’s too dark, so I have to settle for word pictures.
The night is completely still. No wind. The murmur of flowing water somewhere in the distance. The almost imperceptible insect noise. The sounds of the horses nickering occasionally, doing whatever they do for their bedtime ritual. Suddenly, I hear the sound of feet pattering on the porch roof, unhurriedly moving across on some sort of nighttime mission but what, I don’t know. A few dark bird shapes flicker at the edge of my eyesight as they soundlessly swoop past. In the distance, a few lights from other cabins glow in the dark, looking warm and cozy. Someone coughs outside one cabin. It’s though a single person coughed at the grocery store at home four blocks from my house and I heard it as clearly as if the person were on the porch with me. Sound travels far at night in the mountains with no other noise vying for ear time. A few bursts of laughter emanate from the darkness in the other direction. Then everything falls silent again.
As the darkness deepens, the stars slowly become visible, tiny white Christmas lights, more than ever seen in or near the city. Their beauty and number are astounding. Because it’s summer, the full panoply can’t be seen until later at night. When they were little, we’d let the girls go to sleep, then Bill would wake them up when it was dark enough and they’d come outside, bundled up if it were cold, and sleepy, to see the sky crowded with stars. We’d attempt to pick out the constellations. Sometimes there would be a meteor shower or we’d be lucky enough to see some falling stars, a glimpse into the past, since they’d already “fallen” many, many years earlier. The Moody Blues sang of “Pinprick holes in a colorless sky, Let insipid figures of light pass by”, but these are anything but insipid!
The darkness deepens, but still isn’t complete (it’s only a little after 10 pm.) One year on our way back from vacation when the girls were small, we stopped to visit Crystal Cave, outside Rapid City, South Dakota. I’ve been to Carlsbad Caverns and other extensive caves and this one seemed very small and disappointing even though it was filled with crystals and the pool had a blind fish. But when the lights were turned off, the darkness was total! No amount of eye-straining could bring in one particle of light. Although we’d had a wonderful vacation filled with adventures, all the girls talked about when asked what they’d like best was Crystal Cave.
As peace seeps into my bones, I want to write everything down so you can see and hear and feel it, too, but when I bring out my iPad, the brightness from the screen is an affront to the darkness and stuns my vision. I close it quickly and sit quietly, vowing to remember everything to share with you tomorrow. In awhile I’ll go reluctantly back inside and go to sleep. But for now, the peaceful darkness holds me a willing captive.