A number of years ago, I took a class, where we had the assignment to pick a spot out in nature and go sit there for at least a half hour at least four times a week. Then we also had to keep a journal, writing down what we observed. It was a remarkable experience. Literally watching the seasons change from the freezing snowy drifts of winter through the beginnings of spring (being that it was Western New, we would never really make it to summer by the time the semester ends in May).
Sitting there for hours, I learned to appreciate the tiniest details of nature, and love how the all the plants and birds and animals really do form an intricate circle of life. It was also good to have focused time in the business of classes and friends that make of college life to sit alone and reflect. It was a hard semester, a girl on my dorm floor that year died in a car crash and I was struggling to make sense of that eternal ‘why’ question that so often follows such tragedies.
I dug out that journal the other day and spent a good bit of time rereading all that I had written that semester, reliving all those emotions and remembering the few moments when all that time sitting in the snow and rain would pay off, with some new delight in the world around me.
One entry in particular really stood out to me, and I couldn’t help but think about how it so much summed up my feelings now, as I take the next step in life, unsure of what is to come.
Sometimes, to make the course minimum of entries, I would go out late at night, this entry is written at midnight, Feb 17th of 2004:
“As I walked out to my spot, I think to myself that it’s such a dark night. The stars aren’t covered by clouds, but they aren’t fully bright and visible. I didn’t notice any moon. I step on the path and light surrounding Lambine dorm cast long shadows in front of me. I can see the footprints of many little animals, squirrels, probably. Its very silent, except for the sound of a dove over by the dorm. And the creek. The creek is flowing quickly and loudly.
As I walk along the path it grows darker. Finally I peer ahead and can make out nothing in front of me. The evergreens reach down, seeming to strangle all light. I’m stopped, just standing there because I’m too afraid to go on. I’m afraid of the darkness. I belittle myself for it, ‘your 19, Joy, and still afraid of the dark.’ What I’m scared of is the unknown; I’m afraid of what I cannot see.
I force myself to keep walking slowly forward. I cannot allow fears to reign. I feel my way closer to the overwhelming blackness. And stop at a log fallen partly over the path. I stood there for a long time. This was the true edge of the light, where it stopped reaching forward, offering me just a small bit of comfort. I try to peer ahead, but can make out nothing. Slowly, painfully, I force myself to continue to walk forward. I’m completely beyond the reaches of light. It brightness nothing before me or around me. When I look back, I can see it glowing dimly, but I am full in the trees.
And I realize, the darkness is not as terrifying as it seemed from the outside. Trunks and branches and bushes are all black lines of darkly outlined against the snow. And the stars and sky, which had seemed to be veiled, are bright and clear.
But I couldn’t see that from where I had stood before in the comfortable light. In order for me to see their beauty , I had to step away from what I know in what could not be seen.”