What Lights the Way

Starlit Night

What Lights the Way for One May Blind Another

It is early, early morning, cold and dark. I step outside the old, stone farmhouse. Above, the cloudless sky is resplendent in the glow of snow moon and Milky Way. I experience a fleeting moment of wonder at the parity between the stars above and the starlight within my body.

Stepping along, I follow the gravel trail out past the gateway. I stop to listen, hear close by the deep breath of mothering cows, their calves facing their first winter. The last frosted leaves strike branches as they fall; their haunting, metallic sounds hold my attention. Here where the path abides in apparent darkness, I wait awhile. At first I try to adjust my eyes to see but innately sense this as interference and leave things be. Moments pass, and I become aware of the intelligence of my feet beginning to reach out and sense their way along the earth. The legs follow, and soon my body begins to see clearly in the beauty of nightlight.

I walk the simple mystery of the road past hawthorn, beech, briar rose. Boreens (“little roads”) branch left and right. To the south lies ancient Tara, place of law and kings; to the north, Ulster’s ancient centre, Eamhain Macha, place of the warrior. But I do not let the associative mind draw me away from the placement of now in walking, for this too is mythology, and seeing in outer darkness is a practice for seeing within.

After walking quietly for a few kilometers, I begin to feel a call to return. On the road back, between pale-tinted hedgerows, I linger awhile, yearning to be drawn closer, ever closer to the dark light of heaven. I begin to hear faintly at first, then stronger the icy echoing of hard steps upon the frosted road, and a huddled stranger approaches carrying a torchlight to show the way. As he comes closer I am stricken by the artificial source of light; after he has passed I need to stop and be readjusted, as it were, to the natural radiance of shadows surrounding me. Gradually in-sight returns, and indoors a warm peat fire beckons. I reflect on the occurrence: The light that he relied on for guidance had blinded me.

Ted McNamara