A few nights ago, at about 9pm, after a couple meetings, I decided to walk home. The choice was one of freedom, not desperation; it was perhaps one of the last cool, comfortable nights of summer, I thought, and overall that walk was the kind of habit-breaking, inspired newness that keeps life fresh.
That 1.5 hours was filled with experiences: beautiful and frightening, reflective and provoking. Early on, a shadowy figure snooped across Cayuga Street and back again: one of a family of raccoons, out for a garbage dip I supposed. They climbed a tree next to me with ease; as I passed, they perked their koala-like ears in my direction and gave me a rather direct stare from five feet.
On Lake Street, I found myself walking behind a teenager (college student?), playing on her cell phone. As my footfalls gained on her, I thought how threatening it must sound in the darkness. She turned and entered a driveway, never glancing back. Did she fear, I wondered to myself? Did she wonder what I was up to?
Kline Street drew me uphill, past giant construction vehicles, and into a lonely darkness. At one point, I thought I heard a whoosh! behind me--but there was nothing there. I thought of Syrian refugees crossing the Serbian wilderness, moving through their own unmarked darkness and wondering at the hostility of an unknown climate. I thought of families torn apart; of the impossibility of coping with both grief and fear. I downloaded a flashlight app on my phone, knowing what a ridiculously wealthy it was. I thought, with a kind of cowardice of soul, how fortunate I am to be here, and how I would not like to trade places with another's darkness.
The skies above were sequinned, the Milky Way drawn from Northeast to Southwest. I thought of long ago migrations of pilgrims, moving along that same axis. I noticed that it was as hard to imagine people sitting inside the planes flying distantly overhead as it was to imagine the planets that encircled faraway stars, and the other lives perhaps harbored there.
Darkness has a way of engendering loneliness and fears, often irrational ones. Sunny townhouses downtown and beautiful estates on the hill seemed equally foreboding in the dimness. I passed a couple of signs that seemed reassuring, somehow: "Black Lives Matter" in one window, and "March for the Animals" on a yard sign, made me feel confident that kind people lived within. At other times, as I walked (in black clothes) past nice bay windows, I wondered if I was giving a fright to the homey hearths within. No, I could not help but think: they will see I have a ponytail. They will see my blonde hair. So my white privilege is named, and I am reminded of many other undeserved gifts.
It is impossible to tell it all: how reminded I was of walking other streets in other countries; how timeless it felt; how the cathedral of the sky followed me wherever I went. Take a walk in the darkness, friends. Join the long line of pilgrims who have made their way; step into the unknown, and make peace with it.
God walked with me in my thoughts there. God shepherds us many, in all our flocks; and God will you.