Have you seen photographs taken from space showing earth’s light pollution? 

The NASA website has a selection of shots that show both nighttime and daylight images. The nighttime photographs bring on contemplation and a tinge of sadness. Does the abundance lights make you wonder what the lack of natural darkness does to our psyches? Don’t we need some darkness from time to time? 

We don’t need a nightly dose of the blackness of Kentucky’s Mammoth Caves. That complete lack of light with nothing for your eyes to adjust to can be disorienting. You flutter your fingers before your eyes and sense but not see them. That depth of dark is dark. But isn’t there something wrong with man-made lights constantly keeping our lives lit up?

There is Light Pollution at Home and Elsewhere

Our suburban neighborhood has a few scattered, subdued streetlights. They could be dim simply because the globes are old and yellowed! We have a dusk-to-dawn motion detector over the garage that flicks on when a deer streaks across the asphalt. The back yard would be deeply dusky because of the terrain and swath of trees. However for an unknown reason, the people who live behind us leave their back porch lights on. On a wonderful summer evening, I longingly look at the sky and see stars dimmed by man’s interference. I’d rather marvel at a ribbon of bright glitter across the wide inkiness.

Red horizon, Sunset at Daytona Beach, Florida without light pollution
plunging into darkness – Daytona Beach, FL

This is one reason I love traveling to empty places. Montana .… When you step out of my sister’s house into the yard, you’re confronted by a big, wide night sky. The black horizon holds only the dazzling stars or a large moon. I awaken in the midst of night to stand at the open window—winter or summer—and gaze in wonder. I will myself to take in the view and stamp it into my subconscious, praying I can keep it with me always by sheer concentrated determination.

On Kauai … away from the resort lights, as the gloaming comes, you are enmeshed in a haven of shadow. Distant hills morph into one rigid hump instead of discernible ridges and valleys.

In the murkiness of the evening hours, your soul breathes differently, relaxing into the moment, being unseen, unquestioned by observers.

Travel and Light Pollution

In the time I’ve been traveling, hotel rooms have gone from a static smoke detector light to … I’m not sure what’s going on with components blinking red—often directly above the beds. Or the other, silver light that flicks like a strobe. Many years ago, I wisely began packing an eye mask along with earplugs.

Our world is full of man-made lights. Highways that extend for miles and miles in shadow suddenly feature a quarter-mile of blinding lights before, during, and after exits. It seems non-sensical since once beyond the exit, you are again plunged into the pitch.

The Flip Side

As much as I love the staring at the full moon, for sleeping, my love of darkness goes to cavern-level. Light (pun!) sleeper me, prefers the air to be cold, the bed to be warm, and the room to be shrouded in utter blackness. In this day of electronics, I found that to be nearly impossible.

But I was determined.

We have a clock and landline on my husband’s nightstand. When he’s not here to block the red phone light and blue clock numbers with his broad shoulders, I prop his pillow before them. I cover the carbon monoxide detector’s green light with black electrical tape. We have three layers of room-darkening curtains to block outside light from creeping in.

Alex’s office has a computer, phone, printer, and modem/router in it—multiple lights from amber to blue to green. I’ve lessened the lights in my office to the one on the external monitor, covering it with paper. The printer is off until I need to use it and my new MacBook Pro has no external lights. 

The kitchen features iridescent clocks on the microwave, stove, and coffee pot. The coffee bean grinder has two green lights. The nightlight has tiers, shaded by louvers. While we’re on kitchens, why don’t refrigerators have interior lights that dim at night? Or do new ones and ours is too old?

The living room, surprisingly, only has one light on the Bose and it fade as night creeps in.

The family room is fine if only the TV and sound bar are on. What bright (pun again!) person designed the DVD player that glows neon blue when running a disk? Just what you need distracting you from the TV directly above the machine, eh?

You get the idea. We have light pollution throughout our home.

 My Love of the Dark is Historical

Voted the Lightest Sleeper on the Floor in my dorm freshman year, I was inspired to write an award-winning poem.

I love the darkness
for its quietness consoles me.
In the blackness I can hide from myself,
from all others
within it I can be anyone I want
and have beside me anyone I need.
It is you
for on its background I can draw your face
within its silence I may hear some loving words,
those that I create and those that you have said.
In the dark
I can believe the sun will live for me tomorrow,
underneath the blanket of a world without light, I can smile
and have no one ask me why
in the comfort of no colors
I can cry
and have no one see the reason.

Contrarian That I am

My dislike of dazzle breaking the night is directly in opposition to my craving of sunshine during a Pennsylvania winter. Daily, I ache for the warmth of sun on my skin as winter gloomily drags on.

Lying in the darkened room, quiet all around, I have minutes of nothing but thoughtfulness. Of being in the present of that specific time, alone and dwelling on what is good in life. Darkness lets me write that script with fluidness and changeability. Daylight, even my beloved sunshine, colors the world, sensory input interfering with contemplation.

I need the darkness.

Shutting the lights off, enveloping yourself in black gloom, is like taking a disconnected day … a day where you don’t smartphone, internet or TV.  You return to electronic input as you return to the world of lamps—renewed and ready to appreciate the convenience.

When is your downtime from the distraction of light pollution? How do you refresh your explorer’s heart with a healthy dose of darkness?


Read: Being a(n obnoxious) morning person