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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This Dark Night

In a log cabin in the midst of the dense and towering Watoga State Park forest, the night is black. So black I feel I have faded into it. I imagine the black is similar to the color of a deep-sea abyss or a galactic black hole. I think I can best describe it as thick like being in a vat of melted black crayon except I can breathe - mostly. I realize a truth - there is a night so black I can't see my hand in front of my face. Sorry for the cliché - writers aren't supposed to use those, but it's true nonetheless.

In this blind night (as all Watoga-forest nights are), I have to touch myself to be sure I exist. I have to plant my feet solidly on the ground to be sure I'm not hovering above it - as if maybe I missed something and now I'm in spirit form.

Yes, that's how it feels to be in absolute darkness. And I don't think I've ever experienced a dark so dark before. Of course, if I can't see me then no one else can see me, and there is a comfort and a sense of security in that.

A few days before my supersensitive awareness of this dark night, my boys, my parents, and I stepped into our secluded rustic cabin. Granted it's not Alaskan-wilderness seclusion or Amazon-rainforest seclusion, but it is West Virginia-mountain seclusion and that's enough to shed off most modern-day conveniences - no television, no internet, no cell phone access, no landline telephone, no microwave, no dishwasher, no air conditioner.

So I am awake. It's 3:00 A.M., and did I mention it is jet-black dark? I can't get back to sleep because all I can think about is how I must put on paper how black this dark is. Then two loud thumps startle me and I lift my feet back into the bed, dive under my covers and pull my boys in close.

I have to mention here that two nights earlier a large black bear shredded the wire caging and plywood top to our outdoor trash cans, then wandered around our cabin, slunk past our front porch where my father sat (until he saw the bear), wandered to the other side of the cabin where he relieved himself of his last meal (which my boys enjoyed seeing the next morning), then headed up a path and back into the forest.

This is fresh on my mind as an unsettling scurry breaks the silence that seems so still after the thumps, and I realize the kitchen window is still open. My mind starts to taunt me - was that a bear-sized scurry or a raccoon-sized scurry? Or worse, could it be human - for a human's potential to injure or destroy can be far more barbaric than nature's.

The scent of skunk oddly calms me until I hear another noise coming from behind the back cabin wall, near the kitchen. The sounds conjure visions not of a bear but of a vicious wild human dousing our highly-flammable log cabin in gasoline and setting it ablaze.

It occurs to me that some Bible reading may be a little too heavy for the pre-bed hours. For example, Abimelech and his pyromaniacal tendencies to cook massive numbers of people alive in towers turned infernos is best left to post-dawn or early-afternoon reading.

Certainly my imagination could be tamed by scripture more fitting for slumbering in a secluded log cabin in the nocturnally active thick-black Watoga forest. Maybe something like, "Be still and know that I am God" - psalm 46:10.

I am certainly still now, but not so still that I don't finally give in and scramble for my flashlight, click it on, and pull out my pen and notebook. Afterall, if I expect to get anymore sleep tonight, I really do have to write about this dark night.