Hello, Darkness

That moment when the radio joins the car as I press the “Start” button is usually a moment of decision: am I going to continue listening to one of the two public radio stations I have programmed, or am I going to let my current Spotify playlist rule?

Yesterday the snippet I caught caught me—radio all the way with a daily program 1A and the astute Jenn White. All I heard was “darkness retreat,” but I was hooked and wanted more. What followed was an explanation of what it is and why it’s become a thing. Maybe because I’d written about sleep, and lack thereof, earlier that morning, I remembered a unique experience with total darkness and the almost-comatose, best-night-of-sleep ever.

In 2013 I had taken a group of my former students on an educational trip to Greece and Italy. For almost two weeks, we traveled and experienced whatever Discovery Tours offered—and it was amazing. Amazing, but stressful, 10 kids and the vice-president of the company and her son had joined us at the last minute. (It turns out they, veteran travelers, were a bonus!)

After a whirlwind experience in Greece, we headed to Bari on an overnight ferry. The timing couldn’t have been better. All of us were weary of bus travel and welcomed the thought of awakening in Italy after a night’s sleep aboard ship. I was glad for the change, too, until I saw our cabin.

I was in a minuscule internal pocket with four tiny bunks and an I-can-barely-turn-around-in-here bathroom, picture airplane but smaller. Because claustrophobia and I have a relationship, I located my tiny bottom bunk, stashed my stuff, and headed out into the spacious common areas as quickly as possible. But the time for sleep after all the students were safely quartered loomed, then arrived.

I gingerly opened our cabin door, the third and last occupant inside, and quickly closed the dim hall light out and myself in—to utter and complete darkness, inky, palpable darkness. I knew where my berth lay, beneath my friend’s bunk. I worried that claustrophobia would strike, but I was exhausted, and it was too dark to consider the tight quarters. Sleep claimed me.

I am an early riser, I mean early, and had held true to my pattern throughout the trip, so when I awoke—still in an envelope of dark—found the bathroom, oh so quietly and opened the door to that tinny automatic light, I expected it to be 5 a.m. But no, it was 9:30, my two roommates were nowhere in sight, and I had just experienced the best night’s sleep of my life.

To this day…

6 thoughts on “Hello, Darkness”

  1. I don’t think I have ever been in total and absolute darkness. To me that might be more disconcerting than being in a confined space, which I am also not a fan of. Glad you were able to get a really good sleep for yourself.

    1. It wasn’t something that I would have chosen, but it was an awakening of sorts for me. The Sky Cave resort is too chi-chi for me, and pets and their lively nights make a totally dark bedroom, door completely shut, impossible at home.

  2. Yea, a good night’s sleep! I loved the paragraph where you described the room. So much to bring the place and feeling to life. I also like how the radio piece triggered a memory. Your story triggered a memory of the time my 5th graders and I missed the last ferry off the island. Perhaps a future slice for me. Thank You.

    1. Isn’t that one of the best things about the Challenge, inspiration from others, that synapse that fires for each of us triggered by someone else? So glad you experienced that!

  3. I love how you described the room and the level of darkness that promoted such a sound sleep. It made me think of how I’ve had amazing nights of sleep when I least expect it: camping!

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