Bring On The Night

Bring On The Night

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So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. -T.S. Eliot

The world over, darkness is disappearing. Light, historically perceived both literally and metaphorically as a positive thing, has become a form of pollution.


Before and during the 2003 Northeast blackout, a massive power outage that affected 55 million people. Photo by Todd Carlson

Perhaps it is not pure darkness itself that is being lost. Such Stygian obscurity can still be found in a cave. What we are missing due to human-caused light pollution are opportunities to appreciate how natural light sources punctuate the night sky, rendering it breathtakingly beautiful.


I vividly recall cross-country skiing as a child through the crackling cold North Country nights in the Adirondack region of northern New York.

The snow was a prism, shattering pure moonlight and spinning it out to smooth the edges off of dark shadows under trees. When “the silver knocking of the moon’s knuckles” was not “at the door of the night”, stars, wild stars emblazoned the black heavens.

The skein of the Milky Way stretched across the darkness always, a cool ribbon of celestial dreaminess. On a few occasions, we watched the Northern Lights gallop in electromagnetic spectacle, shimmering in green and purple.


Aurora Borealis strong display over Whiteface Mt and Connery Pond, Adirondack Park, May 2013. (natural unenhanced colors with 25 sec. exposure).

Since my family lived without electricity, returning from these frequent noctural jaunts did not mean blasting the night into submission with the copious luminosity of electric light. Rather, the gentle scratching of a match rendered flame from paper, a kerosene lamp was lit, and soft candlepower prevailed barely over cool moonlight.

I could read in bed and still see starlight spilling over my windowsill.

Darkness, in all it’s adulterated beauty, was something nearly tangible, not an enemy to be repelled, but a companion who walked softly and exhaled wisps of starlight.

When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, The moon and the stars that you have prepared, What is mortal man that you keep him in mindAnd a son of man that you take care of him?- Psalm 8:3,4


Now, I live in Albuquerque, NM, not the most light polluted of cities. And yet, the glare of sodium lights from the CNM parking lot, the flash of some asinine casino beacon, the dizzying red/blue/white revolutions of cop car strobes, even the rapier point of a green traffic light, all conspire to banish the grandeur of natural night.

The city sky becomes a homogeneous swath of glow, black satin filthied by luminescent vomit. All the fantastic subtlety of natural luminaries is washed out by garish buckets of light spilled carelessly across the heavens.

This makes me very grumpy.


Thus, a need to hit some circadian reset button drives me to seek dark places. The Sueño Salvaje is a manifestation of this quest. Backpacking on the CDT is another way I have sought the darkness to light my soul. Trips like this also help.

In everyday practical terms, my wife and I endeavor to avoid using excessive light around our house. We just don’t see a need to blast the entire neighborhood with invasive lumens. Low wattage, energy efficient LED lighting shielded to not disperse itself senselessly is simply implemented.

Check out this video for more information about light pollution and how to minimize it.

Check out this to read more about the value of darkness.

Global light pollution maps show the appalling degree to which nighttime is becoming an endangered species. 

Why not try to save it?

In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present. -Francis Bacon


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  1. Pingback: Biking, Burgers, Beer, Blisters and a Bridge! - Strongility

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