Last night, late, I went and stood outside. I hoped to be exhilarated under a canopy of stars, but instead I was met by thick-hanging cloud. The sliver of the waxing crescent that was the moon, gave out little light, and my heart sank. Without a visual anchor my body and mind flailed, disoriented by the all-consuming darkness. My hand reached out, and I found the gravelly exterior wall of the house.
I thought of Byron’s poem ‘Darkness’ in which he dreams,
‘The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space’
My other senses swiftly moved in to stabilise me. I heard the river rushing about its secret midnight business. An owl hooted. The clouds deadened each noise that arose, and I was acutely aware of the silence, the stillness, and the absence. Strangely, for being in such a vast space, I felt short of air, as if I was locked in a broom cupboard. Fear swept in, bringing terror of what I couldn’t see, of what might come at me from the shadows of the bushes.
On the blank canvas of the night, the fears that had arisen and fallen during a difficult day found an exit point. It was not unlike a film set in motion. My thoughts clicked and ground their way out, as if from an antiquated cinema projector. I watched as the flickering images were cast on to the night.
The editor I hadn’t managed to please during the day was re-imagined as a poisonous snake falling from the tree above. The writing deadline I had missed was re-cast as the bloodthirsty hands of the ivy that I felt stretching for my legs. The corrupted computer software was re-invented as the antlers of a rabid stag that I thought I saw in the shadows.
However, I know from experience that it is better, whenever possible, to move towards fear rather than run away and let it chase me. I sensed also, last night, that there was something quite important about watching as my fears played themselves out.
So, I reminded myself of what I believe, that provided I respect her, nature will nourish and take care of me. Then, I set off to go for a walk into the darkness…