I believe in embracing darkness to find hidden beauty.
I was 19 years old, half a world away from home. My jeans were rolled up to my knees as I found myself standing barefooted in a Japanese rice field in pitch black darkness. The air was damp and thick, almost as thick as the mud oozing between my toes. Only the hypnotic murmur of frogs grazed the precious silence that lingered between Kyle and me. A fragmented waning moon shone dimly overhead, revealing paper-thin silhouettes of the clouds nestled high above. My heart beat had never resonated as loudly as it did in the clearing that summer night. Our eyes finally captured the treasures we so eagerly waited for, the solitary purpose of our midnight excursion: fireflies. We watched them in silent awe and fascination for what seemed like an eternity, captivated by the magnificence of their beauty in such still and utter darkness. We couldn’t see them from the road several kilometers away. We couldn’t see them from the edge of the rice field where we first cautiously touched our toes to the cool mud beneath us. We could only see them by journeying through the unknown ahead of us, breathing in the darkness that surrounded us.
I learned to love darkness first as a child growing up in West Africa. Electricity was scarce, thus normal activities could never depend upon its visitation. Our family played cards by candlelight after dinner most nights, dinner that was often as difficult to see as it was to eat. I believe now in many cases, it was to our favor not to be able to see the bugs that we were surely consuming. Each night the stars hung overhead in cloudless skies like lighthouse beacons, reminding me of my place within the world.
Now I live among the city lights. Stars are but a precious few, as skyscrapers, stadiums, and factory lights chase away the gentle cover of night that so faithfully pursues our weary bodies, offering its cloak for a few precious hours. But what can darkness truly teach us about beauty? Perhaps that while beauty may be found in the eye of the beholder, it is that faintest refraction of light, that firefly glow and dying camp fire that so richly touches us in the deepest, darkest corners of the soul, that speaks. I believe that it is here, within these sacred chambers of our hearts that beauty emerges in quiet wonder.
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