By Amanda Cleary Eastep
I love going to the movies. I love sharing an overpriced pop, gorging on Good and Plenty smuggled inside my “movie purse” because it makes up for the pricey Pepsi, and watching people wander into the theater and spend that awkward 15 seconds making their personal seating preference known to an audience of strangers who are hoping they don’t sit next to them because their kid is wearing light up shoes.
I love when the lights go down, and the sacred hush descends (and god help the person still texting). And I love the coming attractions…that’s what the dimness brings, too.
The dimness demands quiet and attention.
The dimness teases to get our adrenaline pumping, to raise our expectations, and to entice us to look forward.
I’ve kinda gone dark like that over the past couple of months.
I recall it being fellow blogger Esther Emery who used the “going dark” phrase recently in regard to posting, and I thought, Aha, that’s what I’ve been doing…at least internally.
And it has been more akin to “going dim.”
Not that anyone would have noticed, especially from my social interactions, both in person and online.
By going dark, I mean, I’ve been operating in a dimmer light.
This wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t some social experiment with a plan to blog about “my 60 days without…”
Part of me suddenly went on strike. Her union set up a huge, inflatable rat and declared, Don’t cross this line.
I stopped blogging much, because I couldn’t, for the first time in years, put into words what I felt…about writing (or not writing), about personal trials, about hate, and about faith.
I didn’t fight it for long when it happened around March. Instead, I directed my energy and creativity where it wanted to go.
Straight into the dark.
Into the black dirt of my garden…into more solemn readings and reading into the night…into trials that got in my face and said, If you love, prove it…into quiet and still mornings with black coffee on the patio, watching baby robins hatch and struggle and reach and survive…into the heaviness of a world wounded by the evil in human hearts and the equally evil and inexplicably loving responses to it…into more honest and confessional prayers offered up with dirty hands to a holy, angry, and tender Father who I don’t understand but trust because, love.
I spent more time walking through the woods and more minutes with people I love forever.
I started teaching myself how to forage (which my daughters have told their stepfather is a good reason to stick with me in the event of some cataclysmic economic collapse).
I wrote letters to mourning people and imprisoned people.
And I finished writing a book that I have carried in my notebook–word processor–hard copy–hard drive–trembling hand since college.
Author Virginia Woolf once wrote–or tried at least to put into words–her experience with loneliness and creativity and how it brought her to a “consciousness” of what she called “reality.”
These October days are to me a little strained and surrounded with silence. What I mean by this last word I don’t quite know, since I have never stopped “seeing” people… No, it’s not physical silence; it’s some inner loneliness.
I feel like that. Not lonely in the sadder sense of the word, just more aware in the dark and dimness and trying to find the words to explain it.
To acknowledge how valuable the “reality” has been once I decided to embrace it.
To refuse to label my lonely silence “writer’s block” and instead, like Thomas Merton, see it as the place where “the deepest activities begin.”
Feeling and seeing more in the dimness is counterintuitive, isn’t it? After all, light is the great revealer. Low light usually makes us squint, fumble.
Yet dimming the lights also signals a quieting down, an anticipated intimacy, an alert restfulness…and that something interesting is about to happen.