I am sitting outside on the steps in my backyard. It’s just dawn now. The sun’s rays are barely starting to touch the sky and change it’s colour.
I’ve been outside for an hour. I came out as soon as my alarm went of this morning. Lately, I have found my way out here most mornings. I will start off inside, reading and writing in the quiet of the still-slumbering house. But an ache begins to appear inside me shortly after I wake. The ache is one which makes me long to be out here – to feel the cool, damp morning air against my skin, and to listen to the breeze as it blows through the leaves of the poplar trees at the edge of my yard.
As the breeze blows through the leaves, it tricks my senses. The sound of the wind through the poplar leaves is the very same sound as when rain showers are sprinkling on damp pavement, pattering down drops in bursts of activity.
But it is clear this morning, not a cloud in the sky. A smile crosses my face at nature and her mischievous ways.
It was extremely dark when I first came outside. Tea in hand, I exited the house. There is very little light in my backyard when the sky is dark. The yard is fenced. My house sits on a corner lot, with a quiet street running down one side, and a lane down the other. There is a streetlight, but it is far down the lane, too far away for it’s light to have much impact on my yard. The house behind mine is for sale. It’s currently vacant, and dark itself also.
When I come outside at this hour, the dark feels overwhelming at first. The little child in me surfaces, “what if there are monsters?”, I ask myself. I cannot see into all the shadows, I don’t know what is making all the peculiar noises I hear.
I sit on the steps with my back leaned up against the house and let my senses come alive. It is interesting to me that when I have to be less dependent on my eyes because of the the dark, how strongly my other senses are heightened and respond – I breathe in the fresh, cool air. It smells damp and of earth. And like dew drops. Goosebumps raise slightly on my arms as it’s coolness laps against my skin.
Night activity, and the sounds which accompany it are all around me still. Two owls were perched on the power lines behind my house when I first came out. Their silhouettes were distinctive, as were the soft hooting noises they were making. I can hear crickets chirping far off in the fields which surround town. That sound will stop soon, to be replaced by the sound of the birds singing to each other from the trees.
Whenever I come outside at this hour my eyes first scan the yard and the shadows, but then instinctively want to look up. On a morning like this morning, when there are no clouds at all, the sky is beautiful. It is black as ink, with pinpricks of bright light sprinkled across it, scattered across the sky like freckles across the face of a child. The brightest stars shine down, immediately demanding my attention, and I notice. And I appreciate. They are beautiful.
What is interesting to me again though, is what my eyes see as they grow accustomed to the dark. They slowly acclimate to the dim light. The unknown shadows in the yard become objects again: There is the firepit, I can see the round shape and the gray stone; there is the sandbox with trucks piled high; there is the lawnmower, I should have put that away in the shed, yesterday.
My eyes begin to see details on the things around me more clearly the longer I sit in the dark.
When I look up again at the sky, the effect is the same. I have been outside for an hour now. With every moment that has passed, my vision has increased. What started as a sky sprinkled with a handful of very bright and beautiful stars shining down at me, is now a sky filled to the brim with stars. It is a blanket of speckled light. They are of all variety of sizes, and brightness. Every spot is filled.
The bright stars shine, their light and beauty is so eye catching, they difficult to miss. They are always the first ones we see. The more subtle stars are far more plentiful though. There are more of them, their light is gentle but no less beautiful. It takes determination at first, and sitting for a while in the dark, to begin to notice them there in the background.
I think about my life, and the good things in it. It is easy to notice and appreciate the obvious good. I can list off people, events, memories – specifics which come to mind right away. Those front and centre positives are important, and should be appreciated. They enrich our lives. They are the bright and shining stars. They are beautiful.
But I have sat also in the dark many times during my life. I know what it is to have a fog surround me, and to have blackness taint all I feel and touch. I know what it is to be lonely and despairing, there in the dark. I’ve sat there long enough and frequently enough for my eyes to have begun to adjust to the dim light.
As I have sat in the dark, I have begun to see.
The small pleasures, and the more easily passed over good things in daily life are like those subtle stars. Their light is more gentle. They are so easy to miss, so easy to neglect to see. So easy to take for granted.
In the dim light, I begin to see them. First one, then another, slowly: The smell of lilac bushes scenting the air around me as I walk to work. The way the dog bumps her head against my leg when she wants attention. A big cup of hot milky tea, which tastes like comfort in a mug. The satisfying feel of crawling into a bed which has crisp, clean, freshly washed sheets.
It was once said “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars”. And it’s true. The stars are only visible to the naked eye at night, when it is dark. In my life it goes one step further though, that only when I have sat for long enough in the dark can I begin to see the magnitude of the stars.
I have gained momentum in taking notice of the subtle stars in my life now. My eyes have learned how to look for them, and I see them more and more. It is changing me over time, on the inside. As I notice more of those small, simple pleasures, the darkness in my life begins to fill in, also. It no longer feels so dark when there is so much light I can see.
The brightest stars still shine so bright, they cannot be missed. The subtle stars show their gentle light, shining beside. Filling in the spaces. And as the quiet glow of those small pleasures enrich my vision, they take the night sky of my life forward from the point of simply beautiful…instead, to breathtaking.
(© 2016 Leila Skidmore)
A bend in the road led me to embrace my introversion, and to discover my identity as a highly sensitive person. As I have moved along the path in learning more about who I am, how to take care of myself as an introvert, and how to handle the challenges of life as an HSP - my love of writing has been rekindled and embraced once again. It intertwines with the journey I am on, and is reflected in what I write.
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