As a child, I was always terrified of the dark.
Darkness was this invasive, unlit world that separated you sight-wise from other people in your household. A loud and lonely visual silence.
When I was growing up, Mom always reminded me to turn the lights off when I left a room. As a child with a prodigious imagination, I found this challenging.
I’d stand with my hand resting on the switch for a solid hour, just trying to work up the guts to shut off the lights. I’d let my eyes drink in everything the nearest 75-watt bulb could give before I attempted to simultaneously hit the switch and try to launch myself out the room.
The dark still invaded in an instant. I was never fast enough to outrun it.
As children, our instincts are so sweetly sharp. We naturally gravitate to light, infant eyes fixed on glowing wiry filaments and warmth and bright yellow and white, and we are so uneasy when those lights go out. Too much empty air with God knows what filling it.
Put a child in her crib for the night and hit the switch, and you’ll earn a blood-curdling scream. G.E. makes millions off assuaging the instincts of little children, small green and blue nightlights, miniature beacons with the power to dispel gigantic monsters and demons and evil men.
Light clarifies how and where things truly are, the force that reveals anything hiding in the shadows like a dirty little secret.
And when it goes out? You sleep.
Light is sometimes hurtful, sometimes humiliating, and often so beautiful that three years ago, I learned everything I could about it so that I’d catch it just right when I clicked my new Nikon shutter. Sometimes it was so beautiful that I wanted to save just a little of it forever. Roses pressed in the pages of a Bible.
Fireflies in a jar.
Since I’m always the last to sleep in this house, tonight I went from room to room turning off overheads and lamps. As I stood in the den with my hand on the last switch, looking down the hall to where an Ikea lamp glowed dimly, stupidly out of place in the corner of my log bedroom, I remembered how I raced against the darkness that fell in an instant after I switched off the light as a child.
And I remembered the old trick: put the dark at your back. Look up at your destination, that clear and shiny and cloudless pool of light at the end of the long dark hall, keep your back to the night, flip the switch, and don’t look back. Move forward.
Of course it’s a metaphor. On this day in particular, I see so much dark. I spy fearful things. Terrors in the night.
I’m watching you, world, as the lights go out one by one.
So here is my blessing. Whoever you are, wherever you are, fix your eyes on the brilliance, the brightness, the sun, the light, keep the dark at your back.
And then keep moving forward.