When I was a girl the night was lonesome and dark. The night sounds were ethereal, calves being separated from their mothers bawling like no sound any city person ever has heard, screech owls, screeching raccoons brawling in the trees, or something horrifying I could not identify or pinpoint, only feel as fear. There were also peep frogs and silence and bright stars in the country nights and a room alone with three windows looking out over fields and woods all around.

In college, Taking Back the Night was a march for women to feel safe against violence. I walked proud at Cornell, alone after a late night of studying, or with a male friend who agreed to escort me from the library, arms at sides swinging powerfully, chin up, eyes wide open.

At Teachers College, I walked down the middle of 121st Street on my way to Whittier, my dormitory, with keys stuck between my fingers as protection, all on my own, I wanted to go out and I wanted to go home, and that was my way of being safe.

I thought of these words Take Back the Night in the shower this morning. I have to begin my shower earlier, so I have more time to write after thoughts come. I’ll be brief. I thought of homework and taking back the night from that for my two boys. The peace in our house without that commitment and struggle and the space that has made for other things, safety out of fear and conflict, creativity, conversation, love.

Then I thought of all the meetings I have been to in my life of trying to save the world on my own little terms and how many nights I gave to causes that in the end I began to find too far from my heart, too futile to continue at the expense of myself and my kids, and then I thought of this year of separation and divorce, of Gilchrist where many women, including myself, found ourselves out in the dark at night. I walked my first walk near midnight last year on Independence Day, drawn out by distant bangs of fireworks to photograph the night sky, wound up in a small chapel praying for my spririt to return, afeared of a sound outside that was most likely a deer, came back in the morning to find the pressed down grass nearby.

And then there was the fear of being alone in my own house, the sadness I found there without my family and routine, and the walking out into the night of the city again on my own, to readings, to talks, to walk in the dark and be amongst the young and curious again, saving my city soul.

Time for cleaning, carpool, work. morning time again.

Advertisements