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  • Writer's pictureDamian Kinsella

Finding Inspiration in the Dark

An 80mph windstorm took out our power for an evening this last week, leaving our valley in pitch darkness. My first response was to sit and look at my phone, but thankfully a light came on in my dim dome as it occurred to me to venture out and get some photos of my neighborhood in the dark.

Light pollution map of California

Everything here in Southern California, and I mean absolutely everything, is so smothered in light that I may not get another chance like this for a decade. We've got street lights, Shop lights, headlights, helicopter lights, neon lights, fanny by gaslight... all of it. Experts call it light pollution, which to anyone in Southern California seems like a perfect name for it, because if you want total dark, you're gonna need to get a sleep mask, blackout curtains, a bottle of whiskey and a condo full of sheep to count. Besides, it's a nice accompaniment to the noise pollution and all the other kinds of pollution we have. Why do anything halfway right?

Darkness Falls on Casa de Kinsella - facing the darker high desert

I kissed my wife and headed out through dark, driving into the neighboring San Fernando Valley, specifically the town of Sylmar. It was there I found myself passing through a group of police officers with shotguns drawn advancing through the street around my car... what they were busy doing, I didn't ask and they didn't say (also didn't tell said wife about that part). I zipped through dark intersections until I found a donut shop at the twinkling edge of the city, grabbed a maple bar and a coffee and headed back into the dark.

The view from home - facing the light pollution from LA

Returning back home my newly darkened neighborhood reminded me both of places I've seen where either the very poor or the very rich lived. I've been in remote impoverished areas in pitch black nights, once in a jungle, other times in deserts where there was no light at night, just wind blowing through palm trees. I've also been where people could afford to escape floodlights and freeway noise with the kind of money that buys you a good distance from your mailbox. In all of these locations, nature takes the forefront, with varying degrees of intentionality. It seems like everyone in the middle has a lot of freeway noise and light pollution to deal with.

People spend a lot of money to get away from the not so friendly glow of the city, to unplug and to find rest. The dark is good for your body and your mind, providing a much needed reset. When we fear the dark it's because we lose the ability to define, the control to have everything around us marked and numbered. The belief that we have things pinned down in the light of day is an illusion, but it's an illusion we hold dear. I don't have to see everything around me in the night and most times I can rest in the experience. The profound sense of rest in the nights is one reason I'm out there. I can't see all, but I can still know it's seen. We could all use more peace, and you can get that even when the lights are out. I'll be out painting. Damian

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