Last night I had an unusual experience. My husband and I participated in a night hike on Grandfather Mountain. After watching the sun set while it was lightening 8 miles away unfortunately it started raining so the experience had to be adapted. But towards the end we went on a sensory hike, aka walked a trail in the dark. Very cool!
The guide who led this experience started out by quoting Vincent Van Gogh while holding a copy of his Starry Night painting. He wanted us to spend the evening experiencing the beauty of the night even though it is completely different from the beauty of the day. Often times you have to experience it with different or more heightened senses.
“At present I absolutely want to paint a starry sky. It often seems to me that night is still more richly coloured than the day; having hues of the most intense violets, blues and greens. If only you pay attention to it you will see that certain stars are lemon-yellow, others pink or a green, blue and forget-me-not brilliance. And without my expatiating on this theme it is obvious that putting little white dots on the blue-black is not enough to paint a starry sky.”
― Vincent van Gogh
While we waited for a rain cloud to pass us by we learned
about the Screech Owl. The owl spent the whole presentation staring at my husband, Greg. Fascinating to hear how well they are adapted to be nocturnal and just how cute he was. As we were driving through the park we saw tons of deer nibbling on blueberries and other foliage as if they were just waiting for everyone to leave the park so they could come out for dinner.
My favorite part was the sensory hike. The guide took us down a very easy trail in the dark. There was no moon last night and it was cloudy so there was little natural light. Water was dripping from the trees. We huddled up with the other members of our excursion and began to feel with our feet what was before us on the trail, communicating well with those behind us when we came upon a rock or a stump. Evenually your eyes began to acclimate a little but it was still dark. Eyes were the least helpful of the senses!
Then he stopped us and let us hunt for salamanders! We pulled out our flashlights and started flipping rocks and logs looking for various kinds. I flipped over a rock and found a baby “slimy salamander”. We also heard deer making sounds off in the distance during our walk in the dark. I’ve never heard deer make a sound before.
I guess what was so refreshing to me was to see things through a different lens. I’ve been on that mountain so many times before but all during the day. To see the shadows, to look up at the sky from under the tree canopy was mesmerizing to me. How different the tree limbs looked in the dusk.
Luckily, just before our adventure ended, the clouds broke and we got to see stars, with very little light pollution. There was a patch of Van Gogh’s starry night- so much more than some white dots painted on a canvas of black, for sure. What in your life have you looked at the same way a million times that maybe you just need to find a new perspective. Get out of the light pollution surrounding you. Look during a different time of day, use different senses to experience. It’s amazing what you can “see” when you just close your eyes and listen.
Grace and Peace,