As I ran through the woods in the dark, I told myself I couldn’t let myself be frightened by a few shadows on the trees. The rational part of my mind knew the shadows were from Girl Scout flashlights — absolutely nothing to be afraid of. Sometimes its good to be a little scared, I had re-assured the scouts as we made our way to our hiding spots in the woods. Deep breaths to calm the mind. And here I was. A little scared. My heart raced, but I chuckled at myself. It felt good to be a little scared.
A game of flashlight tag was under way. The scouts had paired up and hid behind trees and one pair of scouts was it. I stood behind a tree and hid. The flashlights from the two scouts searching came near, I angled myself perpendicular to the tree even more so they might miss me.
“Ms. Zoya! We see you!”
I gave out a little yelp of surprise as I really thought I had hidden well. This game of flashlight tag was admittedly scary.
As we headed into the darkness of Fort Abercrombie park earlier that evening, I asked the girls to turn off their flashlights so we could activate our night vision. Night vision, they wondered?
“I don’t have night vision, Ms. Zoya” several of the scouts informed me.
I believe they thought night vision was something only Navy Seals or superheros had. I explained it is using our eyes to see in the dark, the enhanced depth of sight that comes from not having lights on. We all have night vision, we just have to activate it by turning the artificial lights off so the night vision receptors in our eyes and brains can work best. The troop hiked on the gravel road with only the light of the thin moon illuminating the way.
I asked the scouts what was scary to them about the dark and the woods. Animals, shadows, people, they replied. My eyes scanned the trees and the darkness behind them and I, too, shared some of their fears.
Isn’t our natural inclination as human beings to turn away from the darkness, the unknown? Turn on our flashlights and illuminate the path ahead. In our culture, we like seeing one foot in front of us without surprises. We embrace the light, the openness of the world. Hardly ever do we set out into the dark, the unknown, and put ourselves at discomfort’s edge.
Towards the end of our hike the night sky was aglow with stars. With the aid of my co-leader’s star gazing app, we ooohed and ahhed at many constellations overhead. Two shooting stars flew across the sky and for several scouts this was their first time seeing a shooting star.
That night, we had to let our night vision take over and trust that we could still make our way. We had to inch ahead knowing that the light on the path was light from the moon and not a patch of ice. As we walked back to the parking lot that evening amongst the shadows on the road, we had a little more confidence with making our way through the dark.
Kodiak resident Zoya Saltonstall is a mother of two and a physical therapist. She loves Labrador retrievers and chocolate.