“I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark
It’s been a month since that 4 o’clock morning in the backyard with all those stars. Travis and I were sitting in patio chairs looking up at the cloudless, moonless sky waiting for shiny meteors to shoot across the sky like rockets. We talked a little, and I gasped a lot – every time I saw one soar and disappear like a magic trick. The dry, desert air was cool and we were wrapped up in blankets, listening as crickets chirped. I don’t remember a breeze, but I remember the crisp night on my cheeks and the way summer filled my lungs as I breathed it in and out.
We were out there for about an hour and saw a few dozen flying meteors, then Travis went inside to sleep a little longer. I couldn’t help staying out to watch the sky fade from black to golden blue. Most of the stars disappeared by the time I decided to head in and make waffle batter for Travis’ 31st birthday breakfast, and as I watched them vanish, I closed my eyes and tried to feel each second and everything I am thankful for.
There was something magic about that early morning. Neither of us had seen a meteor shower before, and when we saw that this one would take place on Travis’ birthday, we couldn’t pass it up. Watching a meteor shower was one of those things on an imaginary bucket list in my mind – the kind of thing I never wrote down, but would eventually experience because it’s such a Manette thing to do.
I’d started reading a book around that time about the value of darkness in our lives, both literally and figuratively, and how even though we tend to equate the night with the unfamiliar and scary things, there is so much to be gained from it. I recently read that Chaco Canyon in New Mexico protects 99% of its night sky from most light pollution, creating better living conditions for nocturnal wildlife in the area and enabling humans and plants to experience life’s natural rhythms. There is value in darkness that can’t be found in light, and on the morning of Travis’ birthday, I realized how much I missed it – how much I longed for more frequent outdoor moments beneath a million, billion stars.
Sometimes I need the night. I need to walk outside and see the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia. I need to look through a telescope at the surface of the moon or a cluster of stars and realize how tiny I am in this big universe. Sometimes I need to go for a long drive with the windows down and my favorite music keeping me company. Sometimes I need a group of friends around a campfire because it’s a space where every kind of conversation can happen and no one feels awkward.
Sometimes I need to hike long after sunset and reach the top of a mountain where all I can see is black trees and the sky’s diamonds. Sometimes I need to sit on a blanket somewhere and watch fireworks burst right above me in 100 colors. Sometimes I need to soak in a hot tub where everything feels intimate, or swim in a pool where everything feels free, or funny, or both. Sometimes I need to see the ocean in the dark and hear the waves all night long.
Sometimes I need to sleep without a roof over my head so I can hear the owls and rustling leaves. Sometimes I need to be on a chairlift while it’s snowing so I can see the magic of winter with its giant trees draped in white blankets. Then I need to tromp through knee-high fresh powder and make snowballs and angels, and, for some reason, not feel cold at all.
Sometimes I need the loudness of night – the sounds of parties, and city trains, and baseball games. I crave amphitheaters, concert crowds, and my favorite bands giving everything they have on stage. And every once in a while, I might stumble to the car after dancing to thumping beats inside bars with all of my (two) dance moves.
Sometimes I need to sit on the back patio to drink tea and watch lightning strike in all directions. Sometimes I need to sit on a rooftop with friends from all different places and backgrounds and watch cigarette smoke fade into the darkness while talking about the most serious and silliest sorts of things.
Some of these things I’ve only done once, and others dozens of times. What I know is that I don’t do any of it often enough. I love how the night will wrap me up and keep me for a while. How it holds hope in all those stars. How it remembers happy moments, with many more to come.