Take Back the Night

I just finished a 2.75-mile walk tonight in the dark. I have been going out to walk at night several times a week for the last 6 weeks or so. I have to admit, every time it’s a bit of a head trip and I spend some time during every nighttime walk wondering if I am being refreshingly brave or really stupid. I take a light and often take a dog, but he hides every time he hears another dog bark and is a black-as-night beta, so he’s not exactly protection. Some neighbors blast their property with blinding bright floodlights, and other neighbors’ homes are completely black. Certain streets are almost totally unlit. Sometimes I feel safer in the dark.

I love the night smells: wet grass, sweet dry oats, ripe figs, oak trees, wildfire smoke. And I like walking my with my light off; it’s a kind of faith. After 19 years, I know these neghborhood streets. But there’s one pothole I trip over every time, even though I know I am right on top of it.

The odds are in my favor; I will probably enjoy many more peaceful nighttime walks, either alone or with my silly little dog. I live in a safe place. Surely there are precautions I can take. But that’s not what I am interested in.

I’m interested in the dialogue that’s happening in my head around the idea of safety, where I’m safe and when, and under what conditions. I find myself feeling safer walking in the dark in places where I’m unlikely to encounter anyone else. Other nights the opposite is true, and I gravitate toward the streets with streetlights. And I wonder why that is, and if I’m safer or wiser now that I am older, or if I’ve just got less time/energy for fear now.

At a college campus famous for partying, I marched in Take Back the Night events in the early ’90s, with hundreds of women at my side. Now it’s just me out there, and I feel up to actually doing it. The night is mine.

November 29 Walk

I’m past caring about work, and I’m sitting in the dark, drinking a glass of cheap white wine and staring at Facebook. Ian walks through the room and I realize I look a sight.
I put on a coat and hat, kiss my family and walk out into the dusk. I’ve been on the computer since early morning, except for a surprise lunch out with friends, and I know it’ll do me some good to get moving. I usually turn left on Eagle Road, but this time I turn right and walk toward the school playfield because the sunset pulls me on. I always want to fall into the colors. The school is empty, quiet. On the blacktop I see the only other pair of souls enjoying this space away from cars and lights: a man and what appears to be a small German shepherd. I have a choice—speak and be friendly or conspicuously ignore them. As I think it’s safer to engage with people, even in the dark and when alone, I called out.
“Hello! Your dog is very handsome. Is he or she quite young?”
“She is almost 3, actually.”
“She’s petite then. Very pretty. Have a nice evening.”
I walk on through the upper field, and stop to take some pictures of the sky. It’s mostly clear, except for some obliging wispy clouds on the western horizon, which provide some drama as the colors deepen and twilight falls.
Emerging onto the street where Ian lived as a boy, I take in my surroundings. Giddy birds chirp from within palms and hedges. Some homes are dark; some have cheerful porch lights shining, or Christmas lights running along the eaves. Lawns are blanketed with fresh gold and wilting brown leaves, a thick carpet, especially those yards with a mulberry tree in their center. Other yards are fastidious; someone has been along with a blower. The orangey-pink light reflects off cars parked along the road.
It’s chilly. I’m glad I have my hat, and my phone in my hand reminds me that I’m not really alone. The sky is darkening above me, the horizon now approaching claret. I wish I could find a vantage to take a sunset shot without cars in view, but this is the suburbs.
It feels good to stretch my legs, but I kind of wish I had my sneakers on instead of my street shoes. No matter. I know that if I had taken the time to change them, I might have lost my momentum and not walked out the door.
I reflect that I am never buying any of the inflatable Christmas characters that stand guard in front of some homes in my neighborhood. Then I reflect that I’m a snob. Suddenly the neighborhood smells overpoweringly of someone’s laundry detergent.
It’s dark now, and I’m heading homeward along a black street without sidewalks. Cardinal is a street that goes through, and people often speed here on their way through the usually sleepy neighborhood streets. Each time the occasional cars and trucks approach me from behind, I hop across the gutter into peoples’ yards. I’m invisible in my jeans, black coat, and a black hat.
I think about Dedra, my friend I used to walk with regularly. It’s been over a year since I saw her, and we haven’t walked in forever. I miss her, so I send her a text. I figure the light of my phone makes me more visible.
When I arrive home, my cheeks are cold and Ian’s got dinner on the table.


“Princess! Listen to my words! You stay by me. I will betect [protect] you in the Land of Car! I am a warrior,” Asher explained as we wandered down the road early in the morning, heading generally in the direction of preschool.

We fought a dragon on the way. “Ting! Ting! Ting! Ting! Shink!” I’m sure I saw the tree stump cower.

We found some interesting things to look at: some pretty leaves, some goopy, leaf-choked puddles. Some lawns are covered in stars of all colors.

On Our Walk

A car almost squished us. “Look out, Princess! It’s very dangerous!”

Having a warrior along while walking through the neighborhood can be a big help. It can also be somewhat … hair-raising. Warriors who are “7 years old” (really 3.75) are erratic at the best of times. Sometimes they dawdle, examining every stick along the way. Sometimes they rush haphazardly—forward, or even sideways. Sideways makes me nervous in the morning school drop-off traffic—the Land of Car.

“Princess! This is a magic puddle! I have to walk in it. How ’bout you be my mama duck Princess and I be your baby duck warrior?”

We walked a little closer to school. We balanced on white painted curbs. We watched the squirrels and the birds.

“Mama, I’m a betective. That means I’m in charge and I betect people. I train good dragons and kill only bad dragons. I ride on a dragon!”

We passed moms and dads hurrying their kids to the local school. Some of them smile at us.

“Mom, I’m gonna teach you how to run fast.” Perhaps we would get there faster if we ran, but honestly I would miss the meandering. I see and hear more when we go slowly.

Morning Walk to Preschool

Walking to Preschool

Asher and I walked to school two mornings last week. (With the shift to our summer schedule, we hadn’t been doing that as much since we had to drive Lucas to summer camp, too.) It was fun to have those cool morning walks together.

We discussed again where the curb water drains to. “What does this sign say, Mama?”
“Protect our creeks. No dumping. Drains to Arcade Creek.”
“Under the road?”

We visited those bumpy sedum plants again—he remembered just where they were. And guess what! They are flowering, with tiny star-shaped white flowers.

We also visited the “super-secret spy tree.” I had no idea it was any such thing.

Asher likes to know where the roads go. “This one goes to the zoo? This other road goes to Lucas’s school?” Yesterday he told me, “That road goes to the Fairy Zoo.”
“Oh? The Fairy Zoo? What kind of animals do they have at the Fairy Zoo?” I asked.
“Horses and marmosets.”

There is nothing quite like a crisp summer morning. It always seems that the whole world is savoring the moist coolness all the more for the day’s coming heat.

  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I’m Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2018 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    “Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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