Feeling Your Way Ahead in the Dark

The light switch on the wall of my studio, conveniently located by the door, doesn’t go anyplace. I’ve plugged lights into every socket in the room, and the switch doesn’t connect to any of them. There is no ceiling light.

When I go into the studio at night, the closest light is on the desk, and I have to

"Finding their way through the dark," © Quinn McDonald, Monsoon Paper, tissue, ink and watercolor pencil on handmade paper, 2014

“Finding their way through the dark,” © Quinn McDonald, Monsoon Paper, tissue, ink and watercolor pencil on handmade paper, 2014

walk across the room in the dark. My toes generally begin to protest, begging me to put on shoes. Sometimes I do, sometimes not. I’ve learned to leave a clear path, but sometimes a cat, looking for a cool draft, pushes the chair into my way. I’ve cracked more than one toe that way.

Tonight, as I felt my way into the studio in the dark for the thousandth time, I realized that I had a flashlight on the phone, I could turn on the hall light, but no, I feel my way ahead in the dark. Just like real life.

There are whole weeks, sometimes months, that I feel my way through life in the dark, believing I won’t stub my toes, step on something sharp, or break a fingernail (or a finger) on the outstretched hand, trying to figure out what my next move is, where I am going,  all in the dark, without reference to anchors.

There is something to be said for experiencing the dark. It’s becoming familiar now, and I move through it more certainly. Which is nice, because we are promised nothing in life, and much of the time we are in the dark, clutching our plans, and feeling out way through.

– Quinn McDonald is traveling again, driving through the dark in a place she has never been.

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24 thoughts on “Feeling Your Way Ahead in the Dark

  1. Pingback: Weekend Retreats - Links from Around the Web » Pierced WonderingsPierced Wonderings

  2. Love the analogy but my toes have a great deal of sympathy for your toes. You might try an automatic LED nightlight in one of the wall sockets. It goes off in the day, on at night and uses a ridiculously small amount of electricity. Beats a broken toe, but not nearly as philosophically satisfying!

    • I rarely walk around the house barefoot, but on the evening in question, the nightlight was not plugged in, due to remodeling and my feet were bare. It think of it as either stupidity or karma.

  3. Love this, Quinn–both the metaphor and the reality. I love darkness; it’s fertile and creative, and there I feel connected to Divine Spirit. In the dark, no one can see me. I can be/say/do what I authentically feel; I can listen for insight and guidance. As light returns, I often feel myself adding layers–identities, perspective/wisdom, smiles–that aren’t in themselves bad, just different.

  4. Beautiful jellyfish 🙂 I wander in darkness, too—currently metaphorically as well as in the nights, not turning on lights, as enough light is cast from outside, that I can see dimly in most areas, and feel my way through others…(hoping not to step on Fiona or Tigerlily’s tail: meOWWW!!!) The only exception is the bathroom, which has no window and is quite dark, and as I have to enter that room, coming towards a mirror, and mirrors in the dark are scary to me, I put a nightlight in there, with a green bulb.
    Most nights I light a candle or two because they make me happy.

    • Sounds like you and I like that idea of discovery my other senses. I understand that dark bathroom thing. We have a light-sensing nightlight that turns itself on when it gets dark. Yes, I could put one of those in the studio, too. But I was making a metaphor and I’m sticking with it.

  5. Great metaphor. Me – I would call an electrician and get the switch connected to a light! (What’s the analogy there, I wonder?)

    • The electrician couldn’t figure it out, either. Probably for the non-existent ceiling fan/light combination that was planned but never installed. Re-wiring will be almost a thousand dollars, I’ve decided to live with the metaphor a little longer. The room is not that big that the hall light doesn’t do a good job if I need it to.

      • Try a different electrician. If the wiring is there, installing a light or fan would take an hour or two. And it’s pretty easy to tell if the wiring is there: take off the switch plate and look, then use a stud finder in the middle of the ceiling; it will probably find a junction box if there’s one in there (junction boxes are plastic now, but they’re fastened with nails).

        • The ceiling is higher than my highest ladder, and most confounding of all, does not have the attic over it. What it does have over it is insulation and the roof, which had hundreds of nails in it.

      • There’s another possibility: the switch might have originally controlled an outlet, but sometimes that can be exactly what you don’t want. It’s very easy to take a switch out of the circuit for an outlet. Much easier than removing the switch afterward.

  6. When I was younger we lived in a very old Victorian home that didn’t have light switches on the wall. All the lights hung from the ceiling on a wire long enough that you could reach it given you were nearly adult size. At the end of the wire hung the light bulb and a switch you could turn to make the light come on.
    As happens the bulb would burn out and my siblings would remove the bulb in the daytime and forget to tell anyone until (of course) it was dark and time for bed. That’s when I was elected to replace the bulb.
    Enter me, hands searching in the dark for the end of the wire on which hung the socket to screw in the bulb.
    I always managed to find it but not before putting my finger into the socket which was (have you guessed?) still live. When the light went out it was still on and when my sibs removed the bulb, of course it was out and they never thought to turn the switch to off.
    I got a shock every time.

  7. Meanwhile, somewhere on Quinn’s street, a frustrated homeowner is trying to explain that no, they’ve tried ALL the switches and the ceiling light in that spare room just keeps going on and off all by itself…

  8. There are lights that go on by “hearing” a sharp clapping sound. Of course you can continue to live the metaphor. It seems to work for you. There are enough lights from the establishment next door to me including flags lit all night so I can pretty well see everything except to read.

  9. It’s beautiful Quinn, I love it! Consider the candles that have batteries in them and will go on 5-6 hour timer schedules for the studio. World Market has them all the time – a little light shining to let us know we are not totally in the dark and can find our way.

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