When I was a kid I would sneak out of my house at night during the summer. I’m not exactly sure at what age I started to do this, but I think it all began when I was eleven or twelve. I would knock on my childhood best friend’s window and then we would set out on our walk in the dark. I imagine many children do this to simply get a thrill from being out when they’re not supposed to be. This was not the case for me.
Sneaking out at this age (later would be a different story) was not about doing anything mischievous like toilet papering someone’s house or going to see a boy. I just wanted to take a walk under the night sky. One night my friend and I were brave enough to walk all the way down our long dim street to where it ended at the shoreline of the bay. I don’t think either of us will ever forget that night. We said very little consumed by the darkness. When we finally reached the water we were completely silent. Our silence was partly we were afraid we would get caught, but more so I think it was the beauty of the moment that left us without a word to say.
When I became a teenager I would sit at the end of my driveway with my cordless telephone for hours until very late at night talking to the most current boyfriend. This drove my mother nuts. She would yell out the front door insisting I come in, but I would always refuse. I didn’t really know why. I just felt more at home among the singing crickets and moon above me.
The night would also comfort me during some of the most difficult times in my life. When I felt I couldn’t handle something I would briskly walk around the block never even breaking a sweat. The darkness would allow me to disappear within it and when ready I would emerge feeling the ability to face whatever was upon me.
For the last few days I have been sick with a cold. I have watched more TV in the past 48 hours than I have watched in the last two months. The only movements I’ve made have been the trip from my bedroom to the couch in the living room in the morning and then reverse when it is bedtime. I reached my boredom breaking point tonight and decided to enjoy my cup of chai outside.
If I venture outside at night I usually just sit on my front porch, stroll along my cottage garden pathway, or stand at the end of my driveway looking up. However, after being laid up for 4 days, I needed to move around a bit. So I decided to walk down the street to view my neighbor’s flower bed I designed. This wasn’t enough for me. So I walked to the other end of my street. My cabin fever still wasn’t satisfied. I had more energy to release and I wanted to get away from the obnoxious street lights. They’re great for illuminating criminals, but not great for one who loves to be enveloped by the night.
I began to worry that there wasn’t any place for me to escape the bright lights and it made me think of the ending to Frances Mayes’ book called Bella Tuscany. She was walking among the enormous cypress trees that lined the Roman road that led to her villa Bramasole. Because of the solitude that comes with living in the country she was able to unbutton her dress and feel the wind on her skin.
From the yard above the road, I see the cypresses graph a rise and fall against a sky blown clean of clouds by this afternoon’s wind. Stars are shooting over the valley, stars that fell even before the Etruscans watched from this hillside.
Beginning to feel sad that I’m not on a street light-less Tuscan country road I remember that my neighborhood park is not illuminated. So I keep walking taking a left at the end of the street towards the park in my over-sized T-shirt and boxer shorts. For the first time in days I feel content. I reach the park and it’s perfectly draped in darkness. I find my way to the little asphalt path and began to feel the satisfaction I found on my childhood street those years ago. There is something about being shrouded in the summer night’s air. For some reason it makes me feel safe to disappear into the dark observing the clouds drifting through the sky and admiring the flowing outlines of the trees. Everything seems so much bigger leaving me in awe of what is above and around me.
After one time around the path I knew I needed to get home because I didn’t know my need for some air would turn into an evening stroll and I was concerned my husband would worry. Sure enough as I got closer to my house my husband was standing at the end of our driveway. As I walked toward him he didn’t look angry or upset. He is well aware of my need to wander into the night. Once upon a time it was him I was talking to while sitting at the end of my mother’s driveway on a warm summer night like this.