“We Grow Accustomed to the Dark”

We grow accustomed to the Dark-

When Light is put away-

As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp

To witness her Goodbye-

A Moment- We uncertain step

For newness of the night-

Then- fit our Vision to the Dark-

And meeet the Road-erect-

And so of larger-Darknesses-

Those Evenings of the Brain-

When not a Moon disclose a sign-

Or Star-come out-within-

The Bravest-grope a little-

And sometimes hit a Tree

Directly in the Forehead-

But as they learn to see-

Either the Darkness alters-

Or something in the sight

Adjusts itself to Midnight-

And Life steps almost straight      —Emily Dickinson

I can remember as a child, being fascinated by how my “night vision” would kick in shortly after all the lights were out. At first it’s like you are blind but then slowly you begin to make out shapes and realize that all that is familiar is still there in the room.

In this poem I love the imagery of the “Neighbor” holding the lamp so that the light falls on her face as she pauses at the door to turn and say her goodbyes before setting off into the dark night. But it is the image of the night’s darkness as a metaphor for our mental darknesses that is so brilliant. Those “Evenings of the Brain” devoid of all light, both moon and star, when we experience the total darkness of grief and loss, despair and hopelessness.

At first we are blinded and can do little more than grope in the darkness. But if we just hold on, slowly the eyes of our soul will adjust. Maybe our life will be forever changed but we will continue to step out onto the road of Life and find it “almost straight.”

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