Don’t light a lamp—there’s no oil in the house.
It’s a shame to want a light.
I have a way to bless poverty:
Just feel your way along the wall.
Step by Step in the dark,
If my foot’s not wet, I found the stone
Musing in the Dark:
The Dark has its Own Light
It is the night of the new moon – dark, dark. Camping with friends deep in the forest, we sit around a fire and tell stories deep Into the night, feeding the flames, passing the jug, spinning our yarns. As the evening moves deep into night it is time to retire to tents for sleep. I turn away from the fire to walk into the thick black ink of night. Testing the dark, I hold my hand in front of my face. Nothing. Slowly, I make my way as my eyes adjust, opening to what is before me: the stars, the bioluminescent fungus. The dark has its own light.
Life Beneath the Veil
As we move to the winter solstice, the nights are long, the days short. The bright days of summer have passed. Now, bees cluster in their hives, the frogs and turtles are buried in the mud; the trees kiss gray skies with bare branches. The world now succumbs to the darkening. I welcome this. Like my eyes blinded by campfire light, I adjust. The creatures of the night emerge, owls on the hunt take flight. One night coming in from the chicken coop, I meet a bobcat: we look as we each turn and go our own way. Winter belongs to the night. And, clearly, there is life beneath the veil.
With the shock of summer’s end now past, I find my heart/mind turning to the dark, into the dark enigma (Hinton), the deep mystery, the not known. Roshi Joan Sutherland notes that physicists have told us that 94% of the universe is dark matter, unknown. That leaves 6% as the known universe. Navigating, exploring the dark is “to go without sight” into the vastness. Fingers feel the wall, baby steps find earth. The dark invites intimacy, the textured walls welcome my touch and lead me on, every step a discovery, an embodied trust that the dark loom of origin holds this all.
So, “Step by step in the dark, if my foot’s not wet, I found the stone.”
And thus we navigate, allowing the dark to open to us.
Tomorrow evening we will speak of this dark, the womb of not knowing within which we are held and from which we come. I welcome you to take one of the koans from column 1, sit with it and bring it to our meeting tomorrow. Let’s muse together. See you tomorrow.