Light and Dark

Sorting through my vegetable seeds, I found that it was too late to sow another crop of some. Autumn is on the wind, especially at night.

I noticed black walnut trees dropping their yellowing leaves. They're always first to go, but isn't this too early? Perhaps it's the drought. Though I've heard others talk about what a rainy year it's been. Not at our farm's latitude and longitude, and not on our rocky, well-drained soil that lost much of its organic material to years of erosion and corn and soy plantings.

With autumn coming, we decided to have a campfire a few days ago. On that particular day, Beren had slept until 10 o'clock in the morning, so why expect a timely bedtime?

Beren and I stacked the branches from a felled box elder and balled up newspapers. I lit the match, passed it to Beren, and Beren lit the fire. Jared followed the smoke from some corner of the farm to the circle of fire. We sat. Beren chased the smoke.

As the sun set, we watched the sky clear for but one low cloud. Vega appeared first. Then Altair and Deneb. Stars. "I think that's the summer triangle," I said. The sky darkened more and Beren asked me to count the stars. I thought it might be easy, this is New Jersey, after all, but I gave up after 26. "There's a lot," I said finally.

We agreed that we wanted camp food. Jared and Beren carved sticks, while I got sausages from the refrigerator. I was hardly hungry, but all five sausages were cooked and eaten in turn.

Time goes so quickly. I wish we could camp out every night and watch the stars. Instead, some nights we go food shopping and pick up another canister of propane for the grill. Some nights, we plant vegetable seeds and then slouch on the couch reading. Others, we wash dishes and tidy the house. Some nights I balance the checkbook while Jared answers emails and Beren makes Play Doh forms.

Some nights I ask Beren if he wants to put on the headlamp and dump the compost with me. Some nights we go into the night with no light. "Which way do I go, Momma?" "You know the way. Feel the path with your feet, Beren." He runs.

Some nights we do it all beautifully, and other evenings are quite otherwise.


I'm reminded of a well-put together book Beren had as a toddler. Photos of animals, many pretty pictures. One page was called "Creepy crawlies". Pictured were a worm, a centipede, a butterfly, a moth, and more. I really disliked the phrase "creepy crawlies".

So much of life is in between the light and the dark. So much of it is the thrill of the dark, walking at night. Being close to the fire, and creating fire. Of touching things dangerous, things crawling and strange. I'd like to give the creatures of the night the dignity. I like to walk among them when I allow myself the time.


Though my heart stops when Beren's headlamp turns one way, and is so dim I think I lose him momentarily. "There's nowhere he can go," I tell myself. "He's fearless, let him feel safe and courageous. Not even courageous, just curious and free. Let him be 'alone' in the dark." I watch him, letting him be alone, quieting my inner self that is always nattering away.