Welcome the darkness of night

Karen Wils photo A luna moth a beautiful creature of U.P nights.

ESCANABA — Deep blue is slowly swallowed by black.

The Earth yawns with a yellow moon.

Crickets sing. A night hawk screeches and dive bombs in the bug-laden air. Into the darkness we are flung for the next several hours.

Darkness is a gift!

It’s the doorway to Lullaby Land. It is peace. It is pretty. It is the cord that recharges our human batteries.

We need it, yet some of us fear it and most of us attack darkness at every level.

Upper Michigan is fortunate to still have some of the nicest nocturnal darkness around. When the sun melts away and the velvety blue-black shadows fall, a whole new world opens up in the northwoods.

A myriad of wildlife awakens. The barred owl hoots out questions from the cedars. Bats and moths dance in the sky. Crickets, frogs and raccoons sing by the water.

The darkness is a gift to the creatures that hunt by moonlight. Darkness is a blessing to sleepy-eyed children with sun-tanned faces and tired legs after biking, hiking and swimming most of the day. Moms love the way quiet moonlight plays across familiar places.

I think one of the big reasons why camping is so much fun is because, at camp or out in nature, we finally slow down and notice and enjoy the night sky.

But it shouldn’t take a campfire and friends to get us out under the stars.

Our world has changed drastically over the last few decades. Light pollution is everywhere. The Earth glows from space, especially over the highly populated areas. From street lights to moving, electronic advertising signs to big-screen TVs and hand-held computers, we are a people of constant light.

A recent article in the National Geographic Magazine says that “Americans sleep less than seven hours a night, about two hours less than a century ago. In our floodlit society, we think of sleep as an adversary.”

Once again, we are lucky to live in an area where we can still see the stars, go to camp or get away from it all and get a good night sleep.

Light at night stops the production of melatonin, a good hormone that helps us regulate the way our moods and brain work. New research shows that when we goof up our circadian rhythms we are at a higher risk for many diseases.

So darkness is a gift.

Remember years ago, when as a kid you had your very own flashlight. You could read at night and tell ghost stories at sleepovers. Then finally at around midnight Mom said, “turn that light off now and gets some sleep!”

Today’s youth have iPhones, iPads, computers and blue screens everywhere from sun up to sun down. Families’ work and school schedules have changed over the years so that some households never sleep.

It is no wonder our brains can’t rest.

I remember back in my younger days watching the moon rise over the river or watching the deer gathering in the meadow and then hiking back down that familiar woodland trail back to camp — and sleeping so sound after all that fresh air!

Darkness is a gift.

Turn off as many lights and screens as you can this weekend and go outside and sit in that lawn chair. Look up and enjoy.


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.