Image above: Louise Todd, ‘Deep’ 2015
Stalks of grass stick up out of the shadows into the light, themselves casting shadow. We see the vegetation in the light first, we are drawn to it. The dark under the grass and into the hedgerow is dismissed before we even consciously register that our brains have played that little trick on us: we have already (un)seen it as negative space. And so that may draw our attention to one challenge of this time of year: to become aware; to become awake to what we dismiss or fail to notice. To pay attention to what we walk on by or have stopped seeing. To refresh our senses by becoming mindful of the overlooked.
In the Christian scriptures and tradition, especially at this time of year, we are disposed to see light as positive and godly and dark as negative and ungodly: so much of the words of hymns, prayers and scripture at this time echoes with journeys into light, the light of Christand casting off the works of darkness. Yet that is just a picture, a metaphor: one way to help us to understand who God is and how we might live in God and God in us. But we could hear other pictures and see other metaphors. We could think of the dark under the hen’s wing the Psalmist and Jesus imagine: a darkness that speaks of safety and protection. We could think of the darkness of the Mountain of God when Moses climbed it which bespeaks the nearer presence of God, the darkness that gives the image of the cloud of unknowing explored by a medieval mystic.
Perhaps we should, as we look at the picture ‘Deep’, imagine ourselves a mouse anxious at the exposure the light brings to the gaze of predators. We might then see the dark undergrowth as a place of safety and rest. And we might appreciate again the gifts of this dark season.
Louise Todd is an artist based in Newcastle. She worked with THB on ‘My Dog, My House, Our Newcastle’, a project with local school children.
Andii Bowsher is chaplain at Northumbria University and a member of THB community.