Walking Without a Headlamp

“Turn off your light.”

“But I can’t see anything.”

“Just let your eyes adjust.”

Luke and I were camping in the Badlands, making our way back from an ill-fated night hike up to the top of a nearby hill. The resident herd of bison are very active in the early evening hours and we had a fairly close encounter with one on the hill, so we decided to high-tail it back to campground rather than provoke a goring.

The night sky was bright with the moon and star belt – unlike anything I’ve ever seen, actually. Luke took advantage of the natural light and switched off his headlamp as he walked along the gravel road. After some gentle prodding, I turned off my headlight and walked blindly for a few steps, expecting to fall on an unseen obstacle along the dark road. Instead, my feet landed softly, yet connected firmly with the ground. My eyes found enough light to see everything around me. The overall sensation was strangely peaceful. The surrounding darkness was not something to be feared once I allowed myself to trust my senses to guide me.

This metaphorically-symbolic experience was not lost on me that night in the Badlands. I was going through a rough patch and needed to make some changes in order to regain a healthy sense of balance. It felt good to let go and embrace the unknown, even for a few steps.

Later than night, I needed to visit the pit toilet. I grabbed my headlamp and started walking down the road. Instead of turning it on, I decided to let my senses guide me. I walked blindly for the first few steps, but I trusted my eyes would soon adjust to the darkness. I trusted the road would be solid beneath my feet. I trusted the strangers around me would be benign. And I trusted the bison would go about their business and let a sister go to the bathroom in peace.

The pit toilet was in use and I passed the time by switching on my headlamp and reading a warning sign regarding aggressive bison behavior. Directly in front of the sign was a large pile of bison droppings. I had a good laugh at this act of defiance and switched off my headlamp to once again become one with the night.

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