Archive for March 26th, 2023

To Know the Dark

GC Myers- The Stars Above, The Stars Below sm

The Stars Above, The Stars Below— At Kada Gallery, Erie

To Know the Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

— Wendell Berry, Farming: A Hand Book, 1970

I love this short Wendell Berry poem. It reminds me of the many times I have had to make my way in the dark in the past.

I worked every day in my old studio up in the woods for about the first ten years I spent as an artist. Much more rustic with no running water, internet, or television. Many days I would forget my flashlight and when it was time for me to head down the hill, I would do so in the dark of the forest night.

There was surprisingly little stumbling on tree roots or rocks or rolls in the path. After thousands of times trudging up and down that path in all sorts of conditions of weather and light, the muscle memory of where the foot should fall with each step was fully developed.

I always liked those walks in the dark, especially when it was an absolute blackness. Thought I spent each day amid the trees and creatures of the forest, I never felt closer to them than on these walks, immersed in darkness.

The silence was often total higher up the hill but when the wind stirred the trees would begin talking as their limbs and trunks rubbed against one another. Sometimes they were sharp cries and other times low moans. I would often stop to listen just to see if they were actually speaking. Sometimes I was convinced they were.

Along with the voices of the trees, there was the occasional yip of a fox or distant howl of coyotes. Or the low hoot of an owl or the thumping of a roosting turkey high above who was disturbed by my walking below it. There might also be the rustle of small creatures along the path. Raccoons scurrying for protection up the nearest trees. It always amazed me how a small squirrel bouncing away through dry leaves made as much noise as a large buck.

The darkness also allowed me to notice the trickle of the runoff creek that runs alongside the path and even the slightest sound of wind rustling through treetops.

I know that for some, being in the dark is a scary thing. It raised my awareness of naturalness of the dark, that I did not have to feel out of place in that darkness because I, too, was a part of nature. Darkness became a comfort to me.

Thanks, Mr. Berry for reminding me of that.

Okay, for this Sunday Morning Music, I am going to continue on the theme of darkness though this song is about hiding one’s discretions in the dark. A cheatin’ song, if you will. But what a song. The song is The Dark End of the Street, first recorded in 1967 by soul singer James Carr. There have been many, many covers of it that are fantastic– Aretha, the Commitments, etc. It’s one of those special songs that just fits with the sound and style of most any singer. But for me, the James Carr original is the one and only.

James Carr never fully realized his potential, struggling through most of his life with bipolar depression before dying at age 58. He had a few other small hits but this song is his monument. He knew a little about the darkness.

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