(with apologies to H P Lovecraft for the title...)
My favourite time to walk is dusk, moving into the twilight. The past couple of weeks here in the Northern Highlands we have been treated to some wonderful skies at sunset - brilliant blues, radiant reds. The whole of the sky, and the world upon which that light falls, is redolent of life itself. At that moment the dwindling embers of ambient light's withdrawal into the realm of Absence brings with it the advance of mystery. As the final rays fall behind the hills the detail of landscape become a deep inky blackness. Yet it is not the shallowness of two dimensions but rather the dark depths that invite the gaze into promise on the untold, the unspoken.
These silhouettes hold a great fascination for me, one in which I can rebuff Wordsworth and take the time to stand and stare. There is a knowing that there is more, a story waiting to be brought out into the light. Too harsh or too quickly and the light will overwhelm and burn it. Too dim and brief and the work of Revelation and Truth will die quickly and be undone. In that time of silhouette, both objects, I and my eyes' target become each other's subjects. No longer the casual glance of the evening walker but two travellers on the journey of mutual discovery.
How often do we see another, not as a silhouette who is worthy to become known through deep attention but rather as some superficial dweller of two-dimensions? We accept the mask, we judge the appearance, we withhold understanding. In so doing we do ourselves and our brief encounter a deep injustice. Failing to look deeply and with care, we remain strangers, our defences up, interest withheld. These would-be true companions remain parallel commuters on the road. That failure of understanding has consequences. We remain objects to one another rather than a single subject of discovery. The light cast on what was dark could be too dim to bring out the contours with any significance. We cannot know, cannot appreciate, the story that has brought them to where they are on the road. Alternatively, the light we pour upon them is so harsh it blinds us to any sense of their depths at all and we dismiss them as at best unworthy of us, at worst as the enemy to be corralled, conquered and destroyed.
It is said to be loved is to be fully known and to know fully. It is also said that forgiveness, rather than an attempt to change emotions, is another word for the fulness of understanding. Companionship emerges from the journey of love and understanding.
We might first gaze into our inner mirror at the darkness of our silhouette and get to know the stranger whom we have failed to regard across the years of our life. Gently shine an emerging dawn upon that stranger, see the crevices, streams, boulders and paths are brought into relief, the map of ages being drawn with detail. That rock that required a heavy clambering explains the tearing upon the psyche that caused pain for oneself and others on the later climb. The path that is a road more easily taken being the reason why more spectacular heights were not claimed. That cave being the place of hiddenness where the soul retreats away from others out of the need for sanctuary. We must first be gentle with the light revealing the mystery of our silhouette. If we can surely but gently allow light into ourselves we may find love for the wounded soul and the true knowledge that is forgiveness. We are no longer the mystery of dark lines, forever hidden and unknown to ourselves or others, but a revelation of something beautiful. Gnarled perhaps, broken in certain places, worn down in others, but a rich landscape of possibility.
Having learned such patient gaze, can we bring it to others? Can we deeply regard and learn their lines and crevices also and be the gentle light to bring their silhouettes into the dawn of healing, love, understanding, companionship?
As the sun begins to set on another day, look at the darkened land around you, both of this physical world and also into the soul, the inner terrain that emerges, as with a sacrament, through the life of the everyday. May the dawn find the tale of years being told and an empty page prepared for the chapter to be written.