After Dark

Midwinter, with its icicle fingers creeping under doors and lazy winds that blow straight through instead of going around, brings with itself a particular delight. I’m eager for its annual arrival, and I mourn its parting, even as the returning sun thaws out my bones.  This is winter’s hidden treasure: staying out after dark!

A relatively recent passion; my secret pursuit is only as old as Bugger herself.  (New readers may need an introduction to Bugger, or B4, the snappy red power wheelchair with the big heart and bald tyres). This is something we do together. Come to think of it, we do almost everything together. We even sleep side by side, and we always visit the bathroom together – which is why I had to spend a great deal of money making it larger, just so we could both fit in. We are an unusually close couple, and now and then, on especially wintry days, we stay out late. Even after dark!

The bus stop view. Electric!

The thrill lies in the improbability of a wheelchair and voiceless occupant wandering the streets in the dark, complete with head and tail lights. It feels dangerous (only because it actually is dangerous; it was a night time roll in the traffic on a back street lacking both lights and footpath that prompted the lights), and  positively furtive. Sometimes (come closer, I have to whisper this part…) sometimes I deliberately miss the late bus home from town, so that I have to catch the last bus!Honestly, this is what I do, and I feel so conspicuous. I drive up the main street a couple of blocks of shops and back, with a purposeful look on my face, just to hide the fact that I have intentionally missed a bus. I’m actually loitering, which used to be a crime, didn’t it? If I miss the last bus there is nothing, no way home. I could be stranded all night. The risk I take is life and death! Well, not really; I would have to call for my Favourite Wife to rescue me. But how shameful would that be? As in, “It’s a shame that didn’t come off”. The last bus takes a different route to every other homeward bus. It skips my stop completely, heading instead along a road with no kerb or footpath, i.e. a road on which the driver can’t set down a wheelchair. But this just adds to the challenge; I have a special card to show the driver which asks him to make a slight detour, just for me. Ah, the guilty pleasure of my foible!

This is all very childish, I couldn’t be more aware of it; but isn’t that exactly the point? It seems to me like only yesterday that I was walking on shorter legs in the early dark of a drenching, windy afternoon, wearing the standard issue wet weather gear for children in the 60s: yellow rain coat, stylish yellow rain hat with elastic chin strap, and those rubber things we pulled over our school shoes. What were they called? Galoshes? How do children survive modern precipitation? There I am, eight years old, bedecked in yellow, striding home through the cyclonic torrents, bound for safety, a warm home, a mother to fuss over me, and – blissful reward – a strawberry jam sandwich.

I laugh at myself, the ‘crazy cripple’, but the better part of my laughter (which very occasionally slips out on the bus, doing nothing for my public profile) comes from the continual and delightful discovery that I am still very much alive. Do you think I’m foolish? Or are many of us on the same road, each with our peculiar ways of testing ourselves, pushing out to touch a familiar boundary; confirming to our troubled hearts that safety can be found, or that we are not alone, or that life makes sense?

(I dare you!)

6 thoughts on “After Dark

  1. Kate Cann

    Ah, Ps Roderick I love your writing! I smiled as I imagined you missing the bus…
    And you re-awakened a memory for me tonight…
    Last year, while in Adelaide for a Bible College Intensive, I was reminded of how much I loved the cold wind when I was younger. As a teenager, walking high on a hill top on days when the washing flew horizontally, was one of the ways I dealt with all the angst of those difficult years, processing the deaths of my brother and father, and the stigma of a facial condition that left me extremely self-conscious and usually in severe physical pain. As I grew into a “sensible” adult, windy days became “annoying” and just plain cold. As a mother, cold windy days meant wild-haired children who would probably “catch something”. And from working in schools I learnt that windy days are a teachers worst nightmare, particularly after lunch-time when they all come back inside, somehow turned quite feral by all that wind.
    God gave me a gift last year in Adelaide. During a week spent exploring how we live and express our spirituality, I decided that the beach was too close to be ignored, and freezing or not, I would go and walk on it, barefoot at that. I ended up going 3 afternoons. It was freezing, wild, untamed….the wind whipped up the waves and drove most people inside. With jacket, gloves, scarf and bare feet I walked from one end to the other, only heading back to the car after the sun has sunk into the water. I rejoiced in the wildness of it, and in the God who could make and tame such a thing. I felt almost a guilty pleasure, knowing that I would have sternly told my kids to get some shoes on and stop being irresponsible going out on a day like that…and then I went back the next day….and the next….feeling more alive each day, and closer to God.
    I had forgotten the gift of those few days….and your “After Dark” has brought it all back again….I think tomorrow if it’s windy, I shall find a hill. Not quite as good as the beach, but it will do….(God bless you.)

  2. Sharon

    Roderick, this was a delightful blog but scary in places…you going out at night taking risk…but thats a part of being truly alive.Good for you! I see that Dasher must be fixed.
    love you

  3. Stephen paterson

    Thanks for reminding me of my youth it brings back happy memories,i am so glad you havent lost your sense of adventure,keep it up ! thank you for putting a smile on my face on my day of birth!

  4. Brad

    Thanks Pastor, another goodie. I’m smiling at you laughing to yourself on the bus, not caring about any public profile. I’m always moved by your ability to strip away all the ‘stuff’ and remind us about those bits of humanity we all have in common – like the God given need to know that we’re not alone in this world.

  5. Anne Marie Jonas

    I love the thought of still doing naughty, childish things now we are (just) in our 50’s!!! Or is it that we’ve been risk averse for the last 25 years and now we can take risks again? BTW I think only the Allen brothers had yellow rain hats with elastic chin straps ………. you all were a very sensible family!!!!

  6. Nadia Humphries

    Love this blog, just had a bad day with all my plans going wrong for me but you have put a smile on my face and a new perspective on my day! Keep sending them Rod, love love having you and Karen in my world xx

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