A Walk in the Dark
It seems strange for darkness to arrive so quickly these days. It’s a sign of the coming winter, one of the few signs to be found on these 90 degree October days. It was a hot one today. It felt more like August than October. We were fortunate to get an early evening rain shower that cooled us off and settled the dust a bit.
After tucking the little ones into bed, I decided to leave their big sister as guardian and take my chunky-butt dog Scratch for a walk around the neighborhood. We’re a great pair, you know – chunky-butt Preacher Mom and her chunky-butt canine companion. We both need the exercise.
Our favorite walking route keeps us close to home as it circles us in and around neighboring blocks. There is one stretch of road that is very, very dark. What little light that leaks in from the nearest street lamps and porch lights serves only to create deeper, darker, scarier-looking shadows. Scratch, who is a bigger chicken than I am, glances back at me nervously, making sure I am ready to protect her. Maybe I should avoid this area, but because it is within shouting distance of two church members’ houses I feel reasonably safe.
It’s strange to see the differences in these houses. One sits on one corner and appears to try to hide from the world. A fence of Leyland Cyprus trees protects the front of the house. The windows that can be seen through gaps in the trees are heavily curtained so that no light peeps out. Several overgrown bushes guard the side of the house bordered by yet another narrow street. The windows on that side of the house are hidden away behind full-sized awnings. I’ve often thought of how sad it must be to look out those windows from the inside of the house and see nothing but fabricated metal. My organist and her husband live inside. She suffers from mental and emotional illness. He is secretive and protective. They really are an odd couple – sweet, but odd. I wonder sometimes if I ever did need to cry out for help if they would respond or simply batten down the hatches even tighter.
On the far corner of the next block, at the opposite end of the stretch of darkness and odd shadows, is another house. It is a grand old house, probably my favorite house in the entire town. It was built in the 1920’s by the town doctor. Now an eccentric retired architect and his wife live there. The windows all have window blinds, but they are never closed – night or day. There is always some sort of ambient light shining from within – candles, lanterns, or antique lamps. I confess that although it makes me feel a bit nosy, I always look inside as I walk by. I just can’t help it. Sometimes I’ll get a glimpse of people sitting in the den, laughing and talking easily. They frequently entertain guests. Sometimes I see no one, but get to admire the warm colors painted on the walls or the flower arrangement on the table by the window. In spite of the wrought iron fence that encompasses the yard, I feel like the house is inviting me in. I happen to know that they rarely lock their front door. I think if I wandered in unannounced I would still be greeted warmly and told to make myself at home. There is no doubt in my mind that if they heard a cry for help from the street they would rush out to see what they could do.
As Scratch and I drew near to our own house at the end of our walk, I wondered how people see us. In spite of my many complaints about the manse, it is for the time my home. Does it send out a message that says, “Go away! Keep out! Leave us alone!” to anyone who passes by? I’ll admit that there are days when I feel like that. After dealing with people who sometimes fail to see or respect the boundaries between my professional and family life, I do feel like erecting a tall fence of protection. Then again, I want this to be a home where friends and family feel welcomed. I want people to look at the light in my windows and somehow know, “In there lives somebody who cares, somebody who would try to help me if I was in trouble.”
The choice is mine to make, I guess. Which end of the darkness will I choose to inhabit?