Embracing the Night: A Nature Ritual


As it has warmed up for “Spring of Deception” (we should be having a snowstorm on Friday), my 3-year-old grandson has a new ritual. He asks to go outside once it turns dark, so he can look at the moon. Either my husband or I will take him out.

When we descend the steps, the driveway light comes up, illuminating our walk to the backyard. We look at what is blooming or getting ready to bloom in the flower garden by the house. Sometimes we pick out little shoots from trees trying to grow among the flowers. Last night we saw the daffodil about to push out bright yellow. A few snow drops are still alive. My grandson implores, “Don’t step on any of the flowers, Grandma.”

After a few minutes, the light goes off. Immediate, wild dark. Quiet. Arms of old trees look as if they are extending. Besides the evergreen, most trees show only their skeleton.

Now we can see the moon. Or talk about what the new moon means or notice clouds covering the moon. He blissfully stares into the sky. Then our eyes adjust, and we can see more in the sky. The stars. A plane light blinking red. Perhaps Starlink, an owl or a bat.

Those are part of the surprises he always asks for as we go outside. We might find a raccoon scurrying through our yard or a squirrel in the tree. Nature is always surprising us.

My senses prickle with aliveness. I am rarely outside for long in the dark when I’m not camping. The night feels different. as I breathe. Is it the coolness? Or that we are the only people out breathing the fresh air? Maybe the trees have more time to clean the air with less carbon dioxide to filter. The cool air feels cleaner.

I hear more and see more.

We walk around the house over and over seeing new things as we explore. I answer, “What is that?” again and again.

I ask if he is ready to go in. I am getting chilly. But, he wants to stand in the dark longer. We stand. Look. Listen.

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