All the many years we thought darkness was the default. We thought light was the precious thing, the thing that could be stolen, the thing that could be lost. And so, as the winter came, we watched the coming of the night with anxiety, hoping always for the light’s return. Never quite certain that it would come again. Oh, we knew it always had. The balance of probability and all that. But how could we really be sure?
Every year, though, the light did return. When the spring came and the balance shifted again, we celebrated the return of the light. We sang songs of praise. We danced dances of joy for the light. We told stories of its wonder and of how it came to return to us. We painted it on paper and canvas and the walls of our most holy places. We rendered its image in cloth and glass.
By contrast to the venerated light, the darkness was nothing but absence, loss, to be feared or hated or endured but not appreciated, not celebrated, certainly not ever hoped for and honored. Darkness was to be protected from, not to be protected. Darkness could not be lost.
But we were wrong. Oh, how wrong we were!
In our ignorance, we began to look for ways not just to endure the darkness but actively to fight it. We invented weapons to hurl at it, ways of pushing it back and calling forth more light. Darkness was not precious. Darkness was not vulnerable. And so we fought it with all our strength, convinced that the best we could do were minor successes here and there.
Our ways of hurting darkness began to tear at the fabric of the darkness itself. We could not see this of course. Our attention was elsewhere, and even if we had been looking, much of this was invisible to all but the most sensitive perception. Nevertheless, the damage was being done. Darkness was fraying at the edges. Darkness was itself in danger.
But though we could not see this, there were those who could. Those whose perception of the world differs enough from ours that they could see this thing that we could not. The creatures of the night began to notice. And the creatures of the betweens, those who live on the edges of things. One of these was Fox.
Living on the edge-lines between forest and field, and being most active at dawn and dusk, Fox was a trickster, a shapeshifter, one who walked in the betweens. And from this vantage point, Fox could see the damage that was being done to the darkness. At first, Fox was not alarmed. Darkness, Fox knew, was old, OLD, and had surely survived many cycles of weakness and health. And so Fox thought that darkness would find its strength. But it didn’t. The damage spread.
Fox became concerned. And then anxious. And then alarmed. And then angry!
Fox looked around for the source of the damage to the darkness, and saw us, the people, and all our weapons to fight the darkness. And Fox became enraged.
But Fox is not one to start a fight. Fox is cunning and tricky, and more inclined to hide in wait, to work subtly. And so Fox began by studying us for a long time. We didn’t notice, but all unawares, we showed Fox everything Fox needed to know about our relationship to the darkness and the light. Fox saw our veneration of the light, saw how we thought it vulnerable and precious. Fox saw our contempt for the darkness, saw how we thought it certain and of little worth.
And then Fox concocted a plan. Fox could see that the darkness too rose and fell, ebbed and flowed, that we should fear for its safety, mourn its diminishment, and hope fervently for its return. And Fox knew that the only way we would come to see this for ourselves was if the darkness disappeared entirely. And so, the trickster decided to steal it!
Fox was pleased with the plan. And so, one day at noon, when the darkness had curled up as small as it can get, and the light was pouring out onto the land, the Fox approached on silent red paws. Silent as only a Fox can be, Fox crept toward the darkness.
Until, all at once, Fox pounced! Fox seized the startled darkness in Fox paws and bundled the darkness away into a sack. Fox carried that sack down to Fox den, and sealed up the door. And then, very carefully, Fox opened up that sack, and the darkness filled the den, so dense and thick that even Fox with those dawn-dusk eyes could not see a single thing.Darkness did not speak, but Fox sensed a wondering at this sudden turn of events, so quietly and carefully, Fox began to tell the story. How Fox could see the darkness fraying. How Fox was worried about the darkness. How Fox discovered the people’s attacks, and decided they could only learn the value of the darkness if it disappeared for a while. Now Fox had darkness in the den, and thought that a time of rest and restoration was in order. Fox would do everything Fox could to help the darkness heal. What did darkness need?
Darkness did not speak, but Fox sensed an acceptance, and heard the longing for love. For stories of celebration for darkness, for songs and dances and paintings and renderings in glass and cloth, for all the love that the people had poured out upon light for all these years.
Fox knew that it would take more than just Fox to heal this hurt, but Fox could begin. And so, Fox began to tell stories about the wonders of darkness. And Fox sang songs about the gifts of darkness. And Fox danced dances of delight for the darkness. But Fox paws were not designed for a brush or needle or for cutting glass. Still, it was a beginning, and darkness felt a bit better.
We, of course, knew nothing of this at the time. We just knew that all of a sudden, one day at noon, the brightest time of day, suddenly, the light got even brighter. A brightness that filled every corner. A brightness that stayed long after darkness should have fallen for the night. A day that went on and on and on.
We had done it! We had conquered darkness. Or so we thought in our ignorance and our arrogance. And we celebrated. To think of it now! But we did. We celebrated our triumph. We sang our songs and we danced our dances, and we had a feast that went on for days.
And then, we began to get sick. At first we thought it was all the extra food, but no, this sickness persisted, and grew worse. We were sapped of all energy. It was as if the light were burning all the energy out of us. After a week, we could barely move. And yet, for all that, we could not sleep. We simply lay, unable to do much of anything at all, but with no real way of finding restoration. The land began to suffer too, we could see that. We could see the trees wilting, and the grain in the fields. We could see the animals’ energy drain away, too, just like ours.
We became frightened then. And then, slowly, came the realization. We had been wrong! Darkness, too, was precious. We could not live without it. And now it was gone. We still thought it was our own weapons which had killed the darkness. We had fought it, and we had won, and it was ourselves we had destroyed in the process. Having killed what we thought was our worst enemy, we discovered that we had destroyed, in fact, a most vital friend.
We wept then, filled with remorse and sadness and shame.
And then, after 12 days of blazing, unrelenting light, all of a sudden, the darkness returned! Fox had released the darkness, hoping that by then we would have learned better, and seeing that darkness was beginning to heal.
The darkness returned, pure grace! A second chance that even the most stubborn among us knew was a gift beyond any we had ever received. We wept with joy and relief. We welcomed the darkness back with fervent love, as the agent of healing that it had always been but which we had never seen.
We recovered, slowly. And we began to write new songs and create new dances, honoring the darkness. We created images of darkness in paint and glass and cloth, and we put them in our most sacred spaces. We told stories of its beauty and its gifts. We loved it. And as we loved it, the darkness healed. The balance returned.
We still love the light. It has a beauty of its own. Though light without darkness is lethal, we know that we cannot survive without the light. But we love the darkness, too. Love it with all the awe our hearts can hold.
And Fox, well, Fox returned to trickster ways. Fox is still Fox, but there has been a change. Is it to remind us? Or as a gift of thanks from the darkness? Or just the natural result of carrying it away? We don’t know. But with the senses that we are learning to use more carefully to perceive the truth of the world around us, we can see that Fox’s paws are black now. Fox carries this story everywhere in Fox paws.