Monday, December 12, 2016

DARK

Cinderella knew she had to hit the road just before midnight or else..... Here in our small village we have until 12:30 to scurry back to our homes. It’s not that at 12:30 we’ll turn into pumpkins or mice. It’s that at 12:30 the street lights go off and you might find yourself in a black hole. The street lights go off and the village turns country dark and oh boy that’s when you know what dark is! Some nights at that moment you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. Woe be to the late night reveler that has forgotten to carry along a flashlight for the now daunting walk home. Baby, it’s dark outside, black as pitch, inky back, dark as a dungeon. One feels buried in darkness.
There is a flip side to the dark darkness of Bourdeilles. It is when your eyes have adjusted to the loss of the street light, and if there isn’t any cloud cover, the sparkling, enveloping light from the night sky magically illuminates your way. 

Even the slightest sliver of a moon will be a bright guide. With no lights, not even household light, because no light can escape from the tightly closed shutters in a small village in France, the streets and alleyways will be awash with a soft, lunar glow.

If the moon is on the wane and a thick fog floats up from the river Bourdeilles’ nights can be awfully scary. The ancient screech of the great grey heron sends a shiver up one’s spine and the gurgle of the river under the low edges of the bridge makes one imagine trolls are lurking in the dark edges of the night. The owl’s hoot hoot is twisted into a word of warning - hurry hurry home.

 On full moon nights it’s great fun to head into the village as the moon rises regally beside the massive tower of the chateau. The return walk home with that great moon, and whatever unearthly else is drawn out by her presence is one where each next footstep becomes a little brisker than the last
There is so little light pollution in Bourdeilles that going out with the dogs for their last walk of the night feels like stepping onto the sky’s stage. Stars twinkle, planets glow their strange colored glow, and every now and then the far off lights of a transatlantic airplane go blinkingly by the fixed constellations. Constellations that are fixed in the universe but not in our seasonally changing skies. The Milky Way, so rarely seen in the big cities, is almost always in Bourdeilles’ night sky.  Some nights it seems like all one has to do is reach out a hand and pluck one of those twinkling jewels. The darker the night the better the chance that I can lie in bed and watch a sprinkling of tiny white gems shimmering behind the window’s lace curtain.

I heard the other day that something like one third of the world’s population will never see a night sky. They live awash in acidic light. They can’t know that stars wrap around the earth and seem to touch the ground on a cold winter night. They haven’t seen stars that twinkle or that little star that tags along below a crescent moon. They wont know the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper or Orion. I hope that once in a blue moon the moon gets big enough, and the skies clear enough, that if some late night city walker were to look up they will experience the wonderment of our amazing moon, maybe even see the man in the moon. 


Like Cinderella we might find it easier to be mindful of the hours passing on the clock and arrive home at a reasonable hour, to hear the chiming of midnight tightly tucked into bed. Or we might live life in our small town version of the fast lane-- stay out late, and gamble on the light of the heavens to get us home.


2 comments:

Leslie in Oregon said...

Thank you for your lovely description of the night skies above your village. We must journey far east of Portland, where I live, to see anything close to what you describe. Since I greatly value night skies with little or no light pollution, you have given me one more reason to spend as much time as possible in French villages. (Do the street lights go out at some time each night in most French villages?)

Mary Jo said...

Thanks for the walk in the nighttime. It was magical.