I walk at night often. More importantly, I walk in darkness.
It didn’t come about by choice but by circumstance- living in the countryside, not driving a car, wanting to still be able to go and do things with other people, has built a life for me that involves a fair amount of walking (and in truth cycling) down country lanes at night.
I’m a city boy. My formative years were spent under streetlights and I didn’t often encounter darkness, not the real stuff.
When I moved to England in 2005 I soon found myself living in the countryside. I was amazed by the darkness of the nights. I was amazed by the stars but more than that by the darkness.
I was reminded of a story my uncle and aunt tell. They were staying with relatives on a farm and at some point in the night my aunt woke my uncle in a bit of a panic because she thought she had gone blind. My uncle was a little panicked himself because “I realised I’d gone blind too.” They weren’t used to that powerful, real dark.
Travelling from the kind of places I live now (the back end of beyond) to towns and cities to do the things I like to do in the social world means walking or cycling for miles to get home after the buses have stopped running.
Walking at night in near total darkness you hear all the sounds of calling and moving animals. You see glimpses of movement that you can’t quite grasp and it is TERRIFYING.
Fascinating but terrifying.
Walking alone at night in lonely places is a time machine. It will take you back into the past. It will take you 10,000 years back into the past.
In a single hour you will find that you are creating a religion in your mind. You will be imagining fearful animal headed gods in the darkness. You will, and this is heightened if it’s a cold night, imagine yourself building a camp fire and that camp fire being civilisation, the whole of civilisation and all beyond its light being well… TERRIFYING.
The whole natural world is beyond that circle of light and it has its own motivations and desires and you may be no more than a meal for them.
Then you think some more and wonder if there might be worse things you could end up being than a meal.
And then, naturally, you think- what if all those figures out there in the darkness, or in your mind, or in the darkness of your mind, are real.