by the Reverend David Olson
Nothing. I can see nothing. Which isn't surprising, considering I'm outside, alone in the woods after dark. Well, alone except for my black lab, River, who I can sense is close by. It's dark and very cold but the sky is clear and the stars are starting to come out. There is no moon yet tonight.
My sister who lives in downtown Washington, D.C., told me recently that my walks I take at night, outside, on my little farm, with no flashlight, wandering through the fields and the woods in the dark, are strange. Maybe so. But I find them strangely comforting.
For most people, the darkness of winter is something to get through while we wait for spring. And though I love spring, I also have come to appreciate the darkness of the winter months. In practical terms, it is a break from the hard manual labor of mowing and hay fields and outside work. But I also like it because in the darkness I find a sort of peace and calm that I have learned to embrace.
Our world is full of lights - street lights, house lights, digital screens that constantly dance bright images in front of our faces. Somewhere along the way people have lost their comfort in being in the dark, and we seem to do all we can to keep it at bay. It's as if we are all still children, scared of the dark and begging for our parents to plug in the night light.
But on my late-night walks, to close up the chicken coop or take River for a walk, I have come to enjoy the dark. Because after my eyes adjust and I take a few deep breaths I realize that I may not be able to see, but when there is nothing to see, something else happens. My mind opens up. I begin to think, dream, wonder and plan. I feel a deeper connection to the natural world, and, from there, a deeper connection to God and what he is doing in me and around me.
It's interesting how we spend so much time in the church comparing everything good to the light and everything bad to the darkness. And yet on my walks in the dark I have come to realize that God is present in both – and in some ways, when we find ourselves in the dark, both literally and figuratively, we encounter him in ways we can't in the light. More intimate – more clear.
It reminds me of Isaiah 45:3. "I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name."
Off in the distance through the trees I see the porch lights of our farm house flicker on. It's getting late and though River wants to keep going we turn back for home. But no need for a light – we have been here before and know the way.
Published in the February issue of The Record.