Walking at Night

Jill MacCormack

By Jill MacCormack

There are certain autumn nights when the quality of air is of such utter perfection that no matter my exhaustion I must heed the call of a walk under the auspices of darkness. Tonight was one such night.

A gentle rain had fallen early in the eve, just enough to deepen the damp smell of leaves on the cusp of decay. The wind, mild from the south east but gusty at times lifted the fragrance of wet earth up in great, lusty swells causing leaves to scuttle as it swooshed them along pavement, ditches and wooshed through the silhouetted hardwoods that border the roadsides.

Nights like this when the air is mild and windy feel like they can hold my wildness and confusion in them. Better than day with all its busy humans, nighttime walking deserves a wild night. The blackness of it all soothes my edges as it dims my visual appetite and heightens my awareness of scent and of sound.

Suddenly a wind gust rushes me from the side and I feel like I am lifted, soaring like when I was a little girl and would fly kites or run along our side yard in hopes that the wind might pick me up and take me in its arms…away…away…above the reaches of this world of constant demands on attention where the long arm of home and school and activities always tried but could not keep me tethered. Away where my little spirit could race along currents of daydreams, chasing after dragonflies, butterflies, muskrats and wildflowers and no one would need me for anything.

As a middle-aged, neurodivergent mother of three youth trying to find their ways in this world of beauty and of pain, I long for moments of freedom from care like when I was a kid. I am learning slowly that such freedom can come in the midst of caring and that by paying attention to life as it is rather than as I want it to be, I can see the richness that is always available to us when we have hearts and minds attuned to see it.

The other evening I realized late that I had forgotten a load of towels out on the clothesline and so I went out into the dark side yard to the line to take them in before it rained. The motion sensor light was burnt out and the yard was only dimly lit by a nearby streetlight so I carefully stepped up onto the sizable stump my husband put for me to stand on to hang out the wash. Up on the stump with my arms reaching to tug in the line, taking off pins and throwing stiff towels over my shoulder, a gust of wind came up and the Norway Maple tree limbs shook a delight loose in me like when I was a child out climbing trees.

This is why hanging out wash is my favourite chore. I shouldn’t even call it a chore, rather pastime of delight. There is not much else in summertime besides wildflowers and gardening which brings me greater happiness and there I was, in early October in the darkness, at the line.

When I hang out laundry I feel like I am a kid again climbing trees. Not that I climbed in the dark—it was only a daytime ritual but at night I hid at the base of trees during long games of a neighbourhood team tag we called jail break. Standing there on the stump the other eve I was practically rubbed up against the tree trunk and the caress of wind song through the leaves had me half-broken for the loss of those days of innocence and freedom and the other half of me bursting with gratefulness for this sudden arousal of wild remembering within me.

Nights like that one and again tonight make me feel like I am back in those childhood days but as a middle-aged woman filled with all the wants and needs for escape a middle-aged person can be caught in. So I heed their offerings for a return to wildness. I honour that a large something in me requires that I pay attention to the stirrings of my heart and suddenly instead of pj’s I am donning a light coat and scarf and walking out with boots on.

So there I was tonight.

A rainy Sunday night at ten thirty finds most people tucked in to face another Monday morning. Blessedly there was no one out tonight while I wandered about the neighbourhood. No need to make small talk. I had no words left in me after a hard day. No need to keep up appearances. I was what I was.

Me and the wind through the leaves.

Me and an earthworm on the wet pavement.

Me and the flashlight making bouncing circles of light with each footfall.

Me feeling happy and free.

Before I left our youngest daughter asked me to take a flash light—was I feeling okay—did I need a hug? When I got back our oldest daughter said she wondered if I would come back at all. She thought that I might walk off into the woods. That I might not be able to resist the curious lure of the trails in darkness—curious what the woods might have to say to me at night.

She knows me well.

I laughed but life has not felt like a laughing matter for so long—things have been so hard around here for a very long time. Great harm befell one of our beloveds and the road to healing for us all is a long one filled with many ups and downs. Walking into the wildness of the world on nights like this helps me remember that there is space enough for all my sorrows and if I am willing to face and name them all, space will come for joy and ease in the midst of the catastrophe.

So I will sign off with a deep bow to the gift of a mild, mid-Autumn eve filled with enough energy to stir me back to presence and to remind me that it isn’t all about me– a night gracious enough to accept me into it with all my brokenness and with my goodness too– a night that asked nothing of me but that I carve its name on my heart and that I whisper my thankfulness to the wind for carrying the woodland fragrance on its breeze all the way to me.

I wish you the wisdom to honour the difficulties as well as the joys that your own human heart possesses. Together we can find that middle way through these strange times of waning light in the world and be the brightness each other needs to make our collective way forward.

Jill MacCormack

Jill MacCormack, nature lover, writer, artist and mother of three youth, is heart bound to her fair little isle in the sea, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

As a mother of three highly sensitive, incredible children and neurodivergent herself, Jill knows firsthand the joys and challenges of being so very sensitive.

Feeling so deeply it hurts is how Jill describes the depth of feelings she experiences in everyday life.

Despite the challenges being neurodivergent presents, Jill knows that her deep way of engaging with the world has led her to her passion for writing and her love of the natural world. It has also led to Jill’s mindfulness meditation practice–a practice which has transformed the way she engages with her profound sensory awareness, thoughts and with the very world itself.

Kind awareness is the pathway she uses to broach the artifice that leads people to believe we are separate beings and the bridge which welcomes us to real heart connections with all beings.

Jill is planning to write a memoir on her experiences of being a mother and discovering, in mid-life, her own neurodivergence. A writing mentor urged her to be shameless in the amount of support she surrounds herself with as she begins to write. Since social contacts are a challenge for Jill, she welcomes guidance in this.

More of her writing can be found at her blogsite : https://jillmarie8.wixsite.com/prattle-and-ponder

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