“The night has been growing longer,” he said to his friend, Aurora. “I think that night is swallowing the day and soon we will forever be hidden in the darkness.”
She smiled. “The darkness is my friend,” she said. “Without it there would be no light. Without it I would not be. It should be your friend, too.”
To Navin Nuri this did not make sense. In the dark he could not see. Dangers could hide around every corner. And yes, it did make him love the light even more, but how could it be a friend? He asked Aurora about these things, but she did not answer his fears at all. Instead she said, “You have so much to offer the dark.”
He did not know what she meant. She saw his look of bewilderment and took him in her arms and then spoke to him gently. “You are right about the longer nights, but light will not disappear. It will come back stronger. Tonight will be the longest night of the year and then the days will start to expand again.”
“A longer night yet?” he thought. He did not think that he could bear it.
“I will be back tomorrow,” Aurora said to him, “but I’d like you to do something for me.” He gave her a quizzical look, uncertain if he could be in this longest night alone, but nodded anyway. “I want you to befriend the dark. I want you to welcome it and be with it. Be brave. Listen to it, feel it, and see what gifts it might offer you.”
With that she disappeared. She left him standing alone to watch the sun setting on a horizon so far away he could not reach it even on the fastest horse ever born. A chill started to settle on him as the sun slowly melted into that distant horizon and dusk settled on his quivering lips.
Navin Nuri did not know how to be brave, but he knew that he could not disappoint his friend. He didn’t know that bravery was not the lack of fear, but moving forward despite the fear. He moved forward. He found a large blanket and headed out into the darkness instead of trying to run away from it. He was scared, but decided he could not give in to the fear. He would do it for his friend.
He found a spot beneath a giant oak tree where he rearranged some brush and snow to make a nest under a tree instead of in a tree, and he settled down wrapped in his blanket to await the night and try to welcome it.
He did not have to wait too long. Night came to him slowly and subtly but eventually wrapped itself around him. Wind whispered in his ears and soon it was so dark there was very little that he could see. He listened to the wind wrapping itself like ribbons of sound through the tree. In the distance he heard an owl hooting and a coyote howling. He had never realized how much life there was in the dark, but now he was hearing all sorts of things.
Surprisingly he didn’t feel cold. Instead he felt the cold. He experienced it. And it made him somehow feel more alive the way it touched his skin, the way it awakened him and made him more aware.
Soon he realized that his eyes were adjusting to the dark and that he was able to make out shapes, that he was seeing the world in a whole new way. He saw the outlines of trees and naked branches dancing in front of night clouds. He saw a rabbit hop across the snow, oblivious to the human at the base of the tree. He saw stars, thousands upon thousands of stars embedded into the sky. He saw his breath and felt connected to his breathing in a way that he never did in the light. As he sat there he realized that maybe darkness was not something to be afraid of, just that it was something different. He came to understand that the night had its own way and that it could be just as beautiful as the day. It was just different and being afraid of difference limited his experience. For the first time in his life the night and the dark filled him with wonder.
Navin Nuri fell asleep underneath that oak tree, and he slept through the rest of the dark and cold night. The night brought him beautiful dreams and he was at peace. In the morning Aurora came to him and gently woke him, touching his eyes lightly.
“Good morning,” she said, “How was the night?”
“I am glad to see you,” he said, “and I have made a friend of the dark. But I still don’t know what I offered to it.”
She smiled and answered him, “You brought yourself, Navin Nuri. You brought your full self. That was a gift for the night and for you.”
The boy snuggled into the blanket a little bit more and opened his eyes fully to the sunrise. Birds were starting to sing now, welcoming a new day. Navin Nuri was excited to welcome the light of a new day with them.