As a child, bred as I was on Frankenstein movies and spooky stories expertly told by the older generation, I was afraid of the dark. The memory I possess of those old fears detracts from the beauty of my boyhood.
I thought it was quite natural that I should fear the idea of monsters leaping at me from the gloom. No monster ever had,m but I felt it was only a matter of time. I reflect now, many years later, that we tend to teach our children certain concepts of greed, envy, and hatred, irrational fears that come as part and parcel of the Dracula movies. This is unfortunate.
It's true that no little kid can grow to adulthood in our civilization without acquiring at least some of these burdensome traits. But parents must impart to their children all they can of sanity . . . even if at the time they themselves happen to be pursued by demons.
One time Chip, Lisa and I biked all the way from Phoenix to Camp Verde, which is a distance of about 70 miles. That first night was deep and dark and cloudy . . . the same sort of night at which I learned to shudder during my childhood.m Now here I was again, 30 years later, with children of my own and determined to do it right. If in some future time they gazed backward at this particular night, I wanted them to behold muted pleasure, and not fear.
We slept just below a mossy bank, next to a creek. There were no stars and no moon. There was a joining of subtle sounds: water moving darkly, winds that picked restlessly at the corner of our sleeping bag. When the night grew very deep, rain commenced to spatter. We zipped the bag up over our heads and felt nothing but pleasurable warmth. The pelleting sound seemed to come from an inexpressibly far place. We were safe from the rain. Nothing encroached. For the moment nothing existed except the awareness of kinship: and this was accented by the darkness.
My children and I of course have known many nights together. Some were teeming with vast fields of stars, and some were charged with a moon that hung in the sky like a luminous pumpkin. We were to love allm the nights allotted to us; but, speaking for myself, none was more special than the moon, and star, and lightless night that we spent near a creek whose name I never knew.
And yet it wasn'tm dark, it wasn'tm starless. The stars were not perceived by our restricted eyes, bur assuredly they were there. And this is the core of the wisdom, such as it was, that I was able to impart to my children. . . I raise my eyes to the vaults of heaven. I gaze soundlessly at the illusion of darkness. And I know that a great sea of stars burns fiercely through the whole of Creation. Nothing is beyond the pale of their illumination. My spirit basks in a swath of light -- and I am set gently free of the fiction of darkness.
. . . and the smell of that creek lingers in my mind. The motion of water. The cry of coyotes in the distance: eerie, perhaps, to many city dwellers, but recognized by my children as music of great beauty: lonely and gallant.
The mantle of night holds no intrinsic terror for a child -- only that which we thoughtlessly impart. On that vanished night, beneath the non-stars that loomed over Camp Verde, my children and I were as near to one another as we would ever be in our lives. The night embraced us, as if it were a living entity who adored us: and imparted no terror to our glad hearts.