My first exposure to total night darkness came when I moved to the woods of Lyman, Maine in 1999. There, I experienced as complete a blackness as is possible, which was hard to get used to at first. But it didn't take me long to come to appreciate it as a comforting shroud that descended on my world at the end of the day. The sounds that came from those woods at night also made for an interesting study in the habits of nocturnal animals, and to which I thrilled each night as I turned off my lights.
In time, though, I realized that, no matter where we are, no night is ever completely devoid of some shred of light, and that is best illustrated when the moon is full or in winter during a snow event. I can still remember how the light from a full moon pierced through the tops of the trees to depict their trunks as long shadows on the pale beige ground. As the moon moved in the sky, the shapes changed accordingly until dissipating at the sun's first touch. If clouds moved in to block the moon's light, the night was still brighter than on nights when the moon had completely waned, bathed in an eerie muted glow that cast everything around me into misty unidentifiable shapes.
After a winter storm, however, moon or no moon, I learned there is always some residual light lingering in the atmosphere, and it is this that the snow appropriates as its own, bouncing off snowbanks, rooftops, from tree branches and reflected on every single falling flake. Snowy nights in the woods are far from dark, and I often went out to experience this along with the softened silence and whispers of flakes falling on dried leaves.
There was a full moon last night, and once again, my bedroom was bright and the shadows of trees outside my window sharp and long. In spots, the snow was shiny like a new nickel, and in others, its accumulated mass sparkled like piles of gems, free for the taking.
And once again, I joyfully partook and sent the moon my silent "thanks..."