Saturday, February 11, 2017

Let there be dark

Sometime when I was a child, someone sold a lot of nightlights to rural America, a fact obvious when flying over the Midwest on a winter night.   For a few pennies a day we could make the night like day.   The idea was straightforward enough.   Since criminals, especially thieves, and more especially gasoline thieves, were three parts vampire, the presence of photons in large numbers would thwart their evil designs on our gas tanks.   No one ever checked this premise out.  One thing we do know is a thief didn't have to remember to bring a flashlight anymore.   Mostly, I think, yard lights were used just like a Donald Duck nightlight in the hall- to chase away the scary dark.   We may have just added to rather than decreased our fears.

There is nothing inherently wrong with or evil about darkness.   Indeed, night brings with it wonderful gifts.   We are freed from the tyranny of appearances.   My friends, for instance, all say I'm much better looking in dim light.   In the dark, men don't have to hold in their stomachs, and women don't need makeup.   Wonderful things happen in conversation.   Because you can no longer be guided by visual signals and body language between talker and talkee, words are chosen with greater care, inflection and cadence become more potent, and the power of our language increases.   In the process, communication often erupts.   The dark is unparalleled for telling ghost stories, whispering dreams, or revealing feelings.   It provides a comfortable atmosphere for the silences of friends together, moments full of healing and joy.   It rests tired eyes while expanding our vision.  The dark is a natural tranquilizer for frayed nerves, soothing us with a surrealistic world only slightly removed from our sweetest dreams.   Distances expand, sounds and smells emerge to occupy the foreground of our perceptions, and imagination seems as natural and easy as our slow breathing.

Here on the farms of America, like few other places we have this wonderful gift in abundance.  As a special bonus there is an added treasure we can enjoy in the night.   Over our heads, a cast of billions continues the drama of the stars.   Ambient light steals this pleasure from most Americans, and the contempt of the familiar robs too many more of this wondrous enjoyment.   It never fails to dazzle.   It is an experience that endures repetition and defies analysis for people of all ages.

But if you are still unconvinced, try this.   In early autumn, go for a walk in the moonlight around your farm.   Your dog will love it, and you will see your farm as you have never seen it before.   After a few minutes, you will be surprised how bright it seems.   For hardier souls, do this when there is snow cover, or go sledding in the moonlight.   WARNING!  Moonlight is a suspected source of romantic magic.   Be extremely careful who you are with when exposed..

Above all, take your children with you when you explore the dark.   They need to understand what darkness is and is not.   In the end, we may discover that darkness is simply nature's way of telling us to go to bed.