These permeate our lives…these are our days…we are always somewhere on the spectrum. We experience both and ponder both. From children’s picture books to philosophical and theological tomes to life experiences that are ours alone, we probe these two words…what they mean and how they feel, the feeling often overriding all else.
Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor is filled with exquisite descriptions of various places of the dark and how, when we allow ourselves to be in those places and spaces, learning to honor them fully, we discover new insights, presence, mindset shifts, God, and so much more.
I do not want to spoil her exploration for anyone who has not yet read the book; rather, I am musing about and discovering what I am calling extensions of the book…for me.
Dark is dark…whether the deep of night when there are no lights to intrude, darkness of the soul, dark rooms, and all the darkness we contrive and imagine.
I have never liked the physical dark unless I have company. Even as a child I asked my parents to please leave the hall light on until they went to bed. Living in the country was very dark at night, especially when the moon had waned. Walking to the house from where we parked the car in the barn was filled with its own imaginings, added to by the tall tales my older brother and sister would feed me about the dark and bears in our woods.
Physical darkness and I are not generally good companions except on rare occasions when I can rest into it. Barbara Brown Taylor’s writing has brought new insights that have helped me understand why. I am, for whatever reason, better able to honor emotional darkness, experiential darkness, and the dark night of my soul…not that they are at all easy but I always live with hope and belief that I will find my way through.
On a recent walk on the trail around my favorite park the sky was gloriously blue, that deep azure blue that can never be trumped. Sun was shining and the dew on the golf course sparkled magnificently…its own morning show. I could live in that light 24 hours a day. On a recent day, I flopped on my back on the dew filled grass and simply gazed up at the sky, resolving that the next place I live will have more open spaces to see it.
I would probably do beautifully in the countries in the months where the sun never sets. I cannot fathom living in them when the days are mostly dark.
At the same time I was relishing the beauty of the light, drinking it in and feeling energized and happy, I was reflecting how even in light there might be darkness…it does not have to be physically dark. Even on the brightest, most picture perfect days, the light does not feel less light in the physical sense but there is a hidden darkness or an awareness of the contrast of darkness because of what we sometimes carry with us. It is as if I am carrying a backpack of the dark even in the light. It is a new awareness for me.
I also thought as I walked of how often I would buy a soft ice cream cone that was both chocolate and vanilla, the two swirled together, distinct until the first few licks and by the end the color was pale brown. It was still so delicious it did not matter how it started out. The cone metaphor struck me as the way in which we walk in both darkness and light…one does not exclude the other and somehow, at times, they get swirled together to create, to use a word a friend and coaching colleague of mine coined, “deliciosity.”
At other times, dark and light are side by side but not meeting…they are lived separately. It reminded me of landing at the airport in Atlanta when there is often another plane landing at exactly the same time, the two planes descending and gliding in together, thankfully not touching. I love watching the dance of the separateness, grateful for the distance.
At times in my life dark and light can be compartmentalized and separate as well… I move back and forth between the two, depending on circumstances.
As I write, I am on my terrace and the sunlight of the early evening is splayed across the table, filtered through the trees. My cat’s front white paws and tips of his fur are sparkling and his back is in the shadows. His pitch black and stark white coat plays right into this moment of mulling.
His fur is a reminder to me that so shall it ever be in life…dark and light. I have a new perspective of him in his glossy beauty. He cannot change his fur color. My life is like that…no matter how much I might choose, I cannot live a life that is all light.
Darkness and light…the places in our lives and the myriad ways in which they show up and surround us, fill us, comfort us, scare us, teach us, and around which we create and hold so many stories.
As much as I resist it, darkness is just as valuable, perhaps even like gold, as light.