Growing up I was afraid of the dark. I was afraid of going to bed at night. I was afraid of going down into the corners of the basement in the middle of the day, where I would often get sent to fetch things. Mostly I was afraid of the unknown. What I might find there.
I have come and left, come and left in my Edmonton neighbourhood three times in the past 30 odd years. The first two stays were short: a summer break spent in a heritage home near 97th Street, a year and a half near 95th Street in an Italian bungalow built like a bunker, and more recently 8 plus years off 92 Street, east of the LRT tracks.
When I first started living here those many years ago, I had an imaginary security system in my head. Day or evening, it didn’t matter, I had an elaborate map of homes of friends and acquaintances on each block, and I would time evening walks and trips to the grocery store to coincide with some of these locations. If something should happen to me down this block, I reasoned, I could knock on this or that person’s door and someone would let me in. I never had to use it in all the years I’ve lived here.
Something changed in the decades of my coming and going in the neighbourhood. This section of town still has a high transient population and a high crime rate, but somewhere within, something changed in me. I kept being drawn back by the differentness, by the diversity. The Other no longer seems other or perhaps I recognize the other in me too. When I go for walks in the neighbourhood now, I don’t scout out the safe doors. I go without expectation of any kind. This doesn’t mean I live without fear. But I’m getting better at accepting my fears, at accepting the risks of living. This is a metaphor for how I feel in the world now, venturing further and further each day, and feeling at home in it. I imagine someday I will feel so at home, it will be time to go.
Loss comes to us sharply at this time of year and this time in human history. This pandemic has demanded a deepening, a going inside the self, with nowhere to hide, no defenses, or distractions but unadulterated reality. This is the reckoning. What is important? What feeds my soul? What starves it?
Night is not without light or colour: Planets. Stars. Galaxies. The moon in all her phases. For those of us in the higher latitudes, the northern lights. What if darkness and light are not necessarily opposites, but mirrors of each other, real by contrast, fundamentally connected?
Some limits we grow through. Some are temporary and we learn to weather them. Some spur creativity and innovation. Then there are losses which are irretrievable. The loss of a child, a loved one. A people. A language. Species loss.
Perhaps this season is most about Mystery. The reality of death and the continuance of life and the dance between them. Because there is space, story can enter in. Memories of people and place. Imaginings of what could be.