Darkness. What do I know about darkness? Darkness begins with the letter D, so does the word diamond.
My dad gave my mom a ring once, white gold, stems rising to small diamonds surrounding a deep green, square emerald. It was the gift before the divorce.
After my mom died, we drew straws to see who would get it. I got it. I don’t remember if I drew the shortest straw or the longest.
A few years later I went to hawk that ring. The jeweler took it to the back of the store then came back and said, “I can’t give you much for it. The emerald is flawed.”
I shook my head, took the ring and put it in my pocket. I didn’t say, “Of course it’s flawed. It’s real! Everything real is flawed. It’s a darkness we all carry around with us.”
When I was a kid, we spent our summers at my grandparents’ farm. At night, we five kids would go to the sleeping porch, my sister and I tight together in the twin bed, while my three brothers bunched together in the double. Then my grandma would come in, pull the string on the ceiling light and, except for the slit of light coming under the door from the kitchen, it’d be dark. And my grandma told us stories about a dog with eyes as big as saucers, about a naughty piggy who wouldn’t jump over the stile. The darkness of that room was sweet with her voice, warm with our stillness. This is the best kind of darkness.
Then there’s the darkness that thickens and closes around you. It’s scarier than walking through a corn field in August, at night, even before there were GMOs. You and hear every flap of the wind, every rustle in the stalks. The sandy soil under your feet seems to be getting deeper, and your steps are slowing. Even though the farm house can’t be that far away and even though you can hear the voices of your siblings hooting and shouting, you could still die here. You are so small. The sound is so big.
I don’t imagine a bat ever feels afraid darting through the night or a mole feels afraid burrowing through its tunnels. I don’t imagine they ever feel the weight of true darkness that seems reserved for humans. It’s what we call depression. I think that word means nothing. Instead of a person saying, “I’m depressed.”, they should say, “I am in prison. I cannot breathe. It feels like a hundred year old oak tree is resting on my chest. It is so dark in here and there might be rats in the echoes. Is anyone there?”
How does a person come to fall into this dungeon? Sometimes I think it has to do with being the wrong shape, being a lily in a community of dandelions. A slouch might bring you to the right height. A strict diet would bring your stem in line. But your fragrance will give you away every time. You don’t belong and all the chemical concoctions in the world aren’t going to make you belong.
It will be the unlikely ones, the low people, the dogs, who will come find you, who will pull you up. But if they can’t find you, pinned as you are, under that mighty oak, there is another way out.
Courage. Courage. Coeur. Heart. Take your heart, hold it out in front of you and follow it like it was the North Star. As long as the stars burn, darkness will not be absolute.
Thankfully, as we age, as our colors fade and our energy wanes, we start to forget things. More and more often we forget to be afraid and we become that sweet voice telling stories in the dark.