When I was quite young, I was terrified of the night…cripplingly so. For at least a year I couldn’t go to sleep unless I knew one of my parents was always nearby. I didn’t even want them to leave the light of the house and go out the door or near an uncovered window after sunset. If either of them did, I cried and worried until his/her return into the light.
One of the many reasons for this fear was because I saw things in the dark or shadow light that I never saw during the day. Images of people or beings or other forms flitted in and out of focus and I never was quite certain who or what they were. Whenever I told my parents about what I saw, they would do their best to show me that I was simply imagining things. “Nothing is there!” they would tell me. But I knew better.
One weekend, we camped with a group of friends in Yosemite Valley. I loved the smell of the trees, playing in the Merced River, building forts, playing tag, but mostly I loved trying to ride a friend’s bike for the first time. I really got grumpy when I had to stop because it was too dark, but then there was the campfire and marshmallows, so I was soon placated.
But then the dreaded moment came…bedtime. Not only was the thought of trying to fall asleep in the utter and complete darkness utter and complete lunacy, but the thin walls of the tent only provided more opportunities for shadow forms to haunt me. As we walked toward our campsite, I began to get nervous. I clutched my mom’s hand tightly and jumped at every sound I heard, asking, “What was that?!”
Then my mom did a very odd thing. She stopped walking.
“What are you doing?!” I was certain there was a bear ready to pounce, and figured that if we stopped walking we faced certain death.
“Look!” my mom urged quietly. “Look at the sky!”
I looked up, and there, painted across the sky, were millions and millions of stars…in waves, clusters, and sprays. “Without the darkness,” my mother whispered, “we would never see the stars.”
As she tucked me into bed, the old fear visited me strongly. “Listen,” my mother instructed. “What do you hear?”
“I hear the river,” I began.
She nodded, “Yes! Keep listening.”
“I hear the campfire and people talking and laughing…what was that?!”
“That’s an owl wishing you pleasant dreams.”
“Are you sure the owl won’t eat me while I sleep?” I asked skeptically.
“I’m sure,” she soothed, “Owls like food they can carry. You’re much too big. Besides. I think this one might be watching over you to keep you safe.”
I grunted…wanting to believe her but not quite achieving belief.
“What was that?!”
“That is the sound of a tree stretching and bending to talk to you. It’s telling you that you are safe and that its happy you came to visit.”
“Trees can’t talk, Mom,” I said disgustedly.
“Oh yes they can,” she corrected me. “You just have to listen carefully.”
Gradually, as I became familiar with all the night sounds in my unfamiliar surroundings, I began to relax…and then doze…and then, eventually, fell asleep.
My wariness of the darkness has never fully dissipated. However, my comfort level with the unknown, the unseen, the mystical, and the darkness has increased since that night. And every so often, I sneak out of the house in the middle of the night to just sit…and listen…and look…and be…and commune with nature…with Gaia…and with the Sacred Feminine. For this is Her space, this darkness…and Her secret is this: without the darkness, you would never discover the beautiful mystery of your own starlight.