10 August 2016

Things that go "bump" in the night

I come to the edge of the holiday resort, where the gravel road leaves the lighted area and turns into an uphill dirt track into the dense forest; basically suitable only for more rugged vehicles, or on foot, like I am. As far as I can tell, nobody bothers going into these woods during the day, not to speak of going there at night. I have the dark forest all to myself.
The stars are out but there is still a touch of light in the Western sky. I carry a flashlight in my hand, with my thumb on the switch, but I’ve vowed not to turn it on unless I really need to. I also endeavour to walk as quietly as possible, to make my presence as unobtrusive as possible and to make all my senses – external and internal – as sharp as possible.
The crescent moon is already down, and I am amazed to discover that I can see in the forest by star light… just barely.
This whole operation has put me in a unique state of mind.
I have to emphasize that as a child I was intensely afraid of the dark. I think vague memories of other lifetimes informed me that the dark is never empty. If anything, that’s when you’re going to encounter “things” that lurk on the edges.
With “maturity” I became “rational” about the dark and didn’t feel the same way I did as a child. My involvement with mysticism and the occult is divided between two periods. The first was between the ages of 16 and, say, 25. There was a pause where I distanced myself from everything smacking of the occult, occupying myself more with martial arts, and the Eastern philosophy that comes with that (Zen, Chi Kung, a bit of Daoism, etc.) Western mysticism and magic came back into my life in 2003, when I was 44. A funny thing happened when I began trying to communicate with spirits. I started occasionally getting a little freaked out by the dark. Not all the time, but sometimes. For instance, I might walk into a dark room in my house when the family is away and I’m alone, and I feel a presence in the room. I can get goose bumps and have to control my breathing, or resort to some sort of “protection” visualization or mantra. I still feel this way sometimes. It’s kind of funny to know that I’m a 57-year-old man who is occasionally frightened of the dark.
And there’s no darkness like the forest. You are alone. No human soul there but you. And there are things out there. That’s the difference being a mystic makes. When you go into the dark forest, you know you are being watched. You know you need to have your shit together and not allow yourself to become vulnerable.
Keep your composure, and keep your “aura” strong and intact, and you have nothing to fear.
Nonetheless, it’s dark, and I’m in the forest, and I’m on hair trigger.
At the same time, without the intense signal from sunlight, and the absence of 3G, wi-fi, and 120-cycle AC electromagnetism, it’s deeply quiet in a way that belies the songs of the crickets and locusts.
So, you see: background signal is cool and calm, but my nervous system, though very quiet, is as alert as a cat waiting at a rodent hole in the ground. A unique state of mind.
I walk silently with the flashlight in my hand that I never use, stopping now and then to listen to the forest, and to feel it. I find a clearing where I do the ritual I came here to perform. It takes an act of will to speak aloud in the dark silence.
Afterwards I walk back down the hill in silence, knowing the forest is watching me.
Sometimes we have to test our courage.

It’s well worth the effort. 


Adam Schmideg said...

All this fear and dark and forest were just an introduction to the ritual you say nothing about

Theo Huffman said...

A man's got to have a few secrets. It's not the sort of thing I publish in this forum. If you ask me personally, I might tell you.

Exlib50 said...

I'm still afraid of the dark when I'm by myself. I wish I weren't. I like being in the middle of nowhere by myself sometimes, getting away from all of the streetlights and media. There are times, in order to reach good places to kayak and not spend money on hotels, that I want to camp out, but I don't feel safe camping alone.

Theo Huffman said...

Well, I'll check my privilege here and admit that it's easier to do these things when you are a six-foot-tall man who knows martial arts.

But that's really one of the points of my essay: it's not other human beings that make me wary of being in the dark in the wilderness.