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POTW: We Grow Accustomed to the Dark

We Grow Accustomed to the Dark
Emily Dickinson

We grow accustomed to the Dark –
When light is put away –
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye –

A Moment — We uncertain step
For newness of the night –
Then — fit our Vision to the Dark –
And meet the Road — erect –

And so of larger — Darkness –
Those Evenings of the Brain –
When not a Moon disclose a sign –
Or Star — come out — within –

The Bravest — grope a little –
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead –
But as they learn to see –

Either the Darkness alters –
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight –
And Life steps almost straight.


Reading Tolkien again (The Fellowship of the Ring) I’m struck by the justice he did to the sadness in the world; not just for his created world, but for our reality. He believed in the Norse idea of “fighting the long defeat”, that there is no shame in losing the war (war of any sort) only in not fighting, that you always keep trying, you do what you can do in the time and place you’ve been given (to paraphrase Gandalf). It is partly because he names the sadness, and so admits to its pervasive place in our experience, we believe the moments of beauty and joy, we feel the unbearable delight when small and large good is accomplished. I am beginning to wonder if admitting the absolute difficulty of our lives is essential to “stepping almost straight,” to “learning to see”, to finding the moon within and outside ourselves.

As I am walking/groping through the middle of my life (a perilous passage according to Dante) and the “evenings of the brain,” I am trying to adjust myself to midnight in the hopes that I will not take light for granted but greet it with the gratitude it deserves at every star. It also interests me that we deal with the “larger — Darkness — / Those Evenings of the Brain –” by fitting our vision “to the dark” and meeting the “road erect.” We don’t expect there not to be sadness or darkness but when the moon gives us signs and lights the way we receive it.

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