“Night is the name we give to the shadow of the earth. This shadow that eats all other shadows. Slowly the wide planet rolls between our animal bodies and the sun; outlines blur, shapes and colors become uncertain, the proximate world loses its stark reality, while a new depth, gentle and beckoning at first, begins to to disclose itself above the trees. A few specks of light appear in the thickening blue, like woodfires in a far-below valley. The bottom-land of that valley soon gives way to a deeper canyon, then a chasm, then a fathomless abyss — its immeasurable distances lit by a thousand or ten thousand glimmering stars.
And just as the shadow cast by a mountain, when we step within its bounds, opens us to the brooding intelligence of the mountain, so the mammoth shadow of the earth, as it overtakes us, carries us out of ourselves into Earth's own awareness. It opens us to those beings, daily obscured by the sun-drenched atmosphere, who nevertheless populate the broad expanse that our Earth inhabits: the sibling planets with whom it shares the sun's house; and the countless other homes, some relatively near and most hopelessly far-off, that nevertheless compose, with us, the local neighborhood of the infinite. Or maybe we should speak of those sparkling lights as bodies, solitary yet exuberant lives who communicate via electromagnetic pulses across the inexhaustible deep, bending the fabric of space-time around themselves.
Or have our own bodies now shrunk to the scale of dust grains, and are those stars fresh dewdrops on a cluster of webs being spun by a nest of spiders?
The limitless immensity to which our eyes are exposed makes us dizzy, drunk with the pleasure of having our minds confounded and our ready logics exploded into an array of sparks scattered across the ocean of night. Such ecstasies are not easy for us to stand for very long, our habits of thought call us back to more familiar harbors. Perhaps if we were birds, and space were our medium, then this immensity would not throw us. Or if we were a different mammal — a fox, for instance, our nose tuned to the smells that drift in ribbons along the ground — we'd hardly notice that alluring openness overhead, and night would be boon for us. But since we balance on just two legs, our heads are held already in the sky, and so we can't avoid the stunning puzzle posed by the stars. Beyond a certain degree of astonished gawking, our necks begin to hurt, and our legs to buckle; our bodies long to lie down horizontal on the earth. We lend ourselves to gravity, becoming adjuncts of the ground itself. Only by thus renouncing the vertical stance — dropping away our upright individuality and leaning back upon the Earth, letting our gaze become the gaze of the Earth itself — do we make some sense of the endless depths in which Earth dwells.
For those depths are not our habitat; they are Earth's. And so it's only by unfurling our limbs and settling back into the body of Earth that the night sky becomes, for us, a steady comfort and a womb. Such then, is the spell that the shadow of this planet casts upon our flesh. Sooner or later, we lie down. Eventually our eyes close. We feed our individual lives back into the wider life of the ground itself, and we sleep. ” — David Abram