I just finished a 2.75-mile Walk tonight in the dark. I have been going out to walk at night several times a week for the last 6 weeks or so. I have to admit, every time it’s a bit of a head trip and I spend some time during every nighttime walk wondering if I am being refreshingly brave or really stupid. I take a light and often take a dog, but he hides every time he hears another dog bark and is a black-as-night beta, so he’s not exactly protection. Some neighbors blast their property with blinding bright floodlights, and other neighbors’ homes are completely black. Certain streets are almost totally unlit. Sometimes I feel safer in the dark.
I love the night smells: wet grass, sweet dry oats, ripe figs, oak trees, wildfire smoke. And I like walking my with my light off; it’s a kind of faith. After 19 years, I know these neghborhood streets. But there’s one pothole I trip over every time, even though I know I am right on top of it.
The odds are in my favor; I will probably enjoy many more peaceful nighttime walks, either alone or with my silly little dog. I live in a safe place. Surely there are precautions I can take. But that’s not what I am interested in.
I’m interested in the dialogue that’s happening in my head around the idea of safety, where I’m safe and when, and under what conditions. I find myself feeling safer walking in the dark in places where I’m unlikely to encounter anyone else. Other nights the opposite is true, and I gravitate toward the streets with streetlights. And I wonder why that is, and if I’m safer or wiser now that I am older, or if I’ve just got less time/energy for fear now.
At a college campus famous for partying, I marched in Take Back the Night events in the early ’90s, with hundreds of women at my side. Now it’s just me out there, and I feel up to actually doing it. The night is mine.