I saw an owl the other day. Against dawn’s glowing eastern sky, a silent silhouette suspended in the branches between the path and the grassy field. I stopped to watch the rare sight, trying to make out the details of the great creature in the dim light.

Although my eyes struggled, I knew I hadn’t snuck up on this nocturnal creature. Had my daughter been with me, she would have recounted again how nocturnal creatures like owls have highly-sensitive senses of hearing and eyesight, specially adapted for hunting at night. (It’s amazing what kids – and their parents – learn through school research projects.)

In the lengthening darkness of autumn turning to winter, we too become nighttime beings. The darkness seeps slowly into our bones, along with the cold. And while we speak a lot of the realities of seasonal depression and deficiencies, new opportunities to experience the nighttime world also present themselves.

Ever since organizing the first Longest Night Run 3 years ago, I’ve become acutely aware of darkness this season brings, and have realized the beauty of this time of year. Our inspiration for the event came from the realities of our friends’ journey with cancer, and specifically Ashleigh’s eloquent description of “inhabiting the darkness”, which is worth another read.

“If I inhabit the darkness, I can discover beautiful things. My senses can become sharpened to the good and joyful and loving that has always been there.”

– Ashleigh Dueck #

This week, as I completed my morning runs in the dark, and played in the fresh snow with the kids in the evening, I thought about the owl. I leaned into the darkness, hoping that my senses would adjust and become more attuned to the world around me. Not in spite of the darkness, but because of it.

This year in particular has brought greater challenges to many of us, facing the realities of a pandemic, along with the loneliness and limitations brought about by our attempts to lessen the virus’ spread. But even now, maybe not in spite of this darkness, but because of it, we see our communities, families, friends, neighbours, coming together to support each other in beautiful ways.

Maybe we can hope this darkness will also train our senses to appreciate our communities in new ways, and support those in need.

By the way, the Longest Night Run is again being planned for this year, and registration is open. We’ll run (or walk, or bike, or trike) to inhabit the darkness together, even though we can’t be together in person. We’re again raising funds to support Ashleigh and Jordan Dueck on their cancer journey. I hope you’ll join us. Click here to register now.