Who Loves the Dark?

There once was a child who got lost in the woods. As night began to descend, the child became more and more frightened. I’m sure any of us would be frightened too, in that situation, but what made this child even more frightened, was that he had always been afraid of the dark. He was more afraid of the dark than any of his friends, or his siblings. He didn’t know why he was more afraid than his friends or his siblings; he only knew that when the sun went down, he was always very glad to be inside his brightly lit house.

When the sun was all the way down, and the only light was just a tiny bit of light from the moon and the stars, the child got so frightened all he could do was sit down and cry, which he did. Soon, he heard a voice say, “What’s all that racket?”

He looked down and saw a mole squinting up at him.

"I’m lost in the woods,” he said, “and it’s dark, and I’m afraid.”

"Well,” said the mole, “perhaps you could take your noisy crying farther down the path. I hate having to come out of my warm, comfortable DARK hole to tell people to be quiet.”

Then the child heard another voice: “Go on back into your hole, Mr. Mole. I’ll take care of this.”

The child looked up, in the direction that this newer voice seemed to come from, and in the darkness, he could see two glowing eyes looking down at him. Before he could scream, which was his first impulse, there was a flutter of wings and the creature flew down near him, and he could see that it was an owl, who said, “Please excuse Mr. Mole. He hates to come out of his nice dark hole for anything, to be honest.”

At this, the child burst out crying even harder than before. Because, as frightened as he was of the dark, having non-human animals speak to him was beyond his experience, and a little frightening in itself.

"No need for that crying.” Said the owl. “If you just give me your address, I can guide you home.”

With that, the child did indeed stop crying, partly out of relief that someone might be able to lead him home, and partly out of curiosity as to how an owl could locate his home with or without the address. But, deciding he had little to lose, the child choked back his tears and replied that he would be very grateful to be guided home and gave the owl his address. And I hope everyone here has his or her home address memorized in case an owl ever has to guide you home!

So this strange pair headed off through the dark forest, in what the child hoped was truly the direction of his home. When his fear left him just a little but, the child looked around, and though the moonlight was dim, he began to notice his surroundings a bit. At one point, he noticed a kind of flower that he had never seen before, and slowed his pace just a little so he could gaze at it.

"That,” said the owl, as they continued walking, “was an evening primrose. Did you know that there are some flowers that bloom only at night? There are moon flowers, and night gladiolas, too, flowers you would never see if you never went out at night.”

After a while, the owl said, as if musing aloud to herself, “and of course, there are animals too, who love night and the darkness. Me, for example, I love the dark. In the daytime, the light hurts my eyes. So that’s when I like to go into my tree and sleep.”

To this, the boy replied, “Well, I like the daytime – I can see to kick a ball; I like the hot sun at the beach. When the dark isn’t scary, it’s just boring!”

"Boring, you say?” replied the owl, and she clearly had some opinions to express on this point, but just then, there was a fluttering and squeaking around their heads. It took the child just a few seconds to figure out what it was, and he shrieked, “A bat!” and he started flailing his arms to knock the creature away, shrieking the whole time.

The shape backed away and, hovering just out of reach, said, “Excuse me. That’s just my way of saying hello.”

"Well, hello to you, Mr. Bat,” said the owl. “This child was out here lost in the forest, and I’m helping him find his way home. You’re not hurt, are you?”

"Well,” said the bat, ” I’ll probably have a bruise on my backside, but I think I’ll live.”

"But you’re a bat!” said the child.” A creature of darkness. Weren’t you trying to drink our blood?”

"No,” said the bat, “but I’ve been eating lots of yummy insects who would have been biting you if I hadn’t been around. Anyway, I couldn’t help overhearing what you said about darkness being boring. If you want to come just a little bit out of your way, I can show you something really exciting.”

"My parents always told me never to go any place with strangers,” said the child.

"Owl will vouch for me,” said the bat. “We've known each other for years and years.”

Owl agreed that Mr. Bat was indeed an upstanding citizen, so the group went off the path and traveled through the deepest forest for what seemed like just a few minutes, and they came out onto a dark beach.

"Here we are,” said the bat.

The child gazed out at the beach, lit very gently by moonlight, and thought, “This is certainly beautiful, even in the dark, but I wouldn’t call it exciting.”

Just then, there was movement in the sand, like a little bubble of sand rising up. Then there was another little bubble, and then another, It looked almost as if the beach in the area they were looking at were boiling. Then, out of one of those little bubbles of sand, popped a rounded shape.

"Looks like we got here just at the right time,” said the bat.

As they watched, more and more shadowy shapes came up out of the sand, and soon the child realized what he was seeing – lots of baby turtles, hundreds, climbing out of the sand. This was truly exciting. Once each turtle-shape pulled itself up out of the sand, it started crawling as fast as its legs could carry it, towards the water.

"When baby sea turtles hatch,” said Owl, in a sort of teacherly voice, “they need to find their way to the water, and they almost always do this at night time, because to find the water they need darkness everywhere else to follow the moon and star light reflecting off the water. Daytime sunlight is too bright and scattered everywhere."

"Ohh,” said the child.

As they turned to leave and head back towards the child’s home, Owl spoke again, as if thinking aloud to herself. “You know who else loves the darkness, besides all the nighttime plants and animals? The moon and the stars love the darkness. That’s when they can really shine. Oh, they’re there in the daytime as well, hidden behind a wall of light. But when that wall goes down with the sun, the stars and the moon reveal their beauty.”

After what seemed like a very short time, the child and Owl left the forest and walked down a street that the child recognized as his own. He was very happy and relieved but also a little sad to say goodbye to Owl, to whom he gave a very gentle hug and a thank you. He went into his home and, being extremely tired, got ready for bed right away.

Before he went to bed, as a matter of habit, he bent down to turn on the night light that he always kept glowing through the night to keep the dark at bay. But before his fingers touched the switch of the night light, he smiled and pulled his hand away. He got into his bed, pulled up the covers, and let the comforting arms of the darkness soothe him to sleep.