In the darkness’ embraceSAM COOK: I am trying to cope with the darkness that seems to wrap itself around us as October ebbs into November.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
Into the darkness we go, the yellow dog loping ahead. We are out well before dawn on this drippy Halloween morning, running through our sleepy village on Lake Superior. Wet leaves gleam in the wan glow of streetlights. We run from one pool of light to the next, feeling our way along on dark pavement.
I am trying to cope with the darkness that seems to wrap itself around us as October ebbs into November. Gone are those lazy, 18-hour days of June and July. Gone is September and its equinox, when big daylight finally gives up its struggle to hold off the night.
Now it is upon us, and all we want to do is hunker around the flickering box in the living room or ingest large quantities of mac and cheese.
But not this morning. I have stepped out into the wet and black to embrace the night. Or at least slither through it and see what happens.
We pass dog walkers and dogless walkers. Unseen fluff dogs growl bravely at our passing, ready to snatch an ankle in defense of their masters. Farther along, on a dark street, I see a headlamp weaving at me through the night. Another runner, headed my way. We exchange faceless greetings.
I am quite sure the darkness represents no compromise to the yellow dog. She embraces her world largely through her nostrils, day or night. But her night vision, I’ve decided, is excellent. Late every evening, I go out to her kennel to toss her a Milk-Bone, perhaps the high point of her day. My eyes, still adapting to the night, are worthless. When I toss the Milk-Bone, I cannot see it. She catches it 80 percent of the time.
Driving a team of sled dogs at night, you quickly conclude they might actually prefer darkness to light. They seem to trot along in complete harmony with the night. Nearly always, to the musher, the perception is that they are traveling faster than they did in daylight.
It is easy, riding a sled on such a night, to imagine the team is not so far descended from the pack of wolves trotting through the night somewhere behind the trees.
But this morning it is just the yellow dog and me, now leaving the streets for a woodland path. I follow the 200-lumen beam of my headlamp under the old willow, out to the pond, down the trail. I have seen the green glow of a whitetail’s eyes at 40 yards with this headlamp. I love it.
On the home stretch now, we climb a hill on a residential street. I pass a gaggle of grade-schoolers on a dark corner, waiting for their bus. We are fellow denizens of the dark, and I wish them a good day. As I’m striding away, I hear a small girl’s voice: “I like your dog.”
One block farther, I encounter two witches waiting for the bus. Witches with school backpacks. Probably second-grade witches.
“Nice costumes,” I say.
“Thanks,” the witches say.
Good things happen in the dark, I remind myself. I will not let it sequester me. I will not hole up and allow it to be a cloistering force. I will forge into it and glide through it and accept it for what it is.
Like sled dogs do. Like wolves. Like little witches waiting for the bus.