Afraid of the dark

July 29, 2022 Comments Off on Afraid of the dark

Sleeping out on the little dirt patch behind the garage, now that the ants leave me alone, and now that I’ve removed all the rocks, well, it’s sublime. Black skies, cloudy skies, starry skies, and the lighting variations that come with each phase of the moon make for an endlessly interesting ceiling to stare at, though in fact the stare-time is short. I rarely lie in my catbed more than ten or fifteen minutes with the cool breeze in my hair before I’m deeply asleep.

I call it a catbed because sometimes Pepper will come out and join me. I’ll be very asleep and then hear this deep sniffing sound around my nose, and when my lids lift I’m looking into the biggest jet black inkpools on earth. The famous tiny slits set in amber that characterize cat’s eye during the day become massive and massively black pupils at night. It’s not hard to imagine the cat’s head being five or six times bigger, jaws wide open, and huge fangs poised to sink into your neck. It’s always a bit unsettling.

I suppose once upon a time it was really like that, and so deep in our gene bones we fear the dark.

Out on the catbed, the fear seems rational. The coyotes are constantly making a racket. What if one of them, or a pack, skulked up the hill to try their hand at some man flesh?

Once we found giant cat tracks just a few inches from where I now lay the catbed. What if a hungry cougar, tired of chasing deer, happened upon a lump of human rolled in a blanket burrito?

A neighbor sent us a video before last year’s fire of a neighborhood bear who routinely went through the trash. No amount of dog barking, yelling, or threatening could make him leave until he’d gotten what he wanted. What if Brer Bear decided that old man was more filling and less work than 400 pounds of juniper berries and garbage?

Reality, though.

Coyotes don’t hunt people. Cat attacks are extremely rare. Brown bears are afraid of humans.

So none of it disturbs my sleep, though I’ve considered the angle. What I can’t understand though are the people who live indoors, sleep indoors, do EVERYTHING indoors, and yet they have a dozen outside lights illuminating their palace or their shack.

Is it to deter thievery? I mean, there’s nothing in this part of Kern County worth stealing, and the local thieves are so drunk and high in the wee stealing hours that it’s all they can do to find the Fruity Pebbles, much less make off with Elmo’s vintage unrestored Airstream that doesn’t have any wheels on it.

Is it so that they don’t drunk-stumble in the driveway late at night? Can’t be … no one is ever outside, ever, day or night. Yesterday I saw a neighbor in a baby’s wading pool on his porch and count that as only the third time I have ever seen him. The first time he’d been standing in the middle of the road, half dressed, doing tequila shots. It was 10:00 a.m.

Some folks don’t use night lights, but most do. I think they’re afraid of the dark, which is a shame. The darkness amps up the night beauty by orders of magnitude, and it allows the full spectrum of natural light to come into play as the earth slowly rotates into the pre-dawn of the sun. And of course on truly black nights when the Milky Way is smeared across the sky, it’s even prettier without the dumb twinkling down below of some yahoo’s sodium beams shining on his trash cans.

This fear of the dark is inside, too, with lit-up microwaves and refrigerators, bedside night lights, phones, illuminated clocks, lights left on in the bathroom, and every other manner of light to chase away the dark. Who knew that cougars and bears were indoor threats as well as out? More realistically, when the leftover pizza or Sara Lee cheesecake calls, it’s an emergency. Ain’t got time for no turning lights on.

For all that, it’s still damned dark and damned quiet outside. No cars or sounds of anything at all except the one neighbor who uses her air conditioning at night. And when the dark gets pushed away in slight shades by the spinning earth as day begins to break, it makes the daylight more precious and more welcome.

Pepper didn’t roust me from the catbed this morning. I was awakened by the faintest of eastern glows and that’s all. He was waiting on the steps, I fed him, made some coffee, and sat on the porch, taking deep, lung-filling draughts of the silence and the dawn.

A few days before I’d made a bird bath out of an old kitty litter box, filling it with gravel and rocks and then topping it off with water. It had already rewarded me with the antics of bird hygiene, and now it was playing an equally lovely role as a still body of water catching the first sunrays of the morning in its reflection.

I snapped, quickly. The night had gone.

Who’s afraid of the dark? Not me.



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