Filling the Outdoor Darkness With the Light of Humans (Outdoor Diary)

Jump To section

Humans Outside episode 353

In seasons of literal darkness it’s important to hunt for the light. And there’s plenty of places to find it — warming fires, twinkle lights or the Menorah, shining stars, headlamps and more.

But my favorite way is through a more figurative means: the light of other humans.

With winter darkness and the importance of light on my mind, now is a perfect time to briefly pause and appreciate the light of humans as we go outside together.

Listen now.

Some of the good stuff:

[:35] The question: where do you find light?

[1:00] The light situation around here

[1:48] Some light places

[2:45] My favorite source of light

[3:06] Here’s who they are and where to find them

Connect with this episode:

Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

A recent social media post written for my small town by my friend, longtime Alaskan and local columnist Barbara Hunt asked readers where they find light during the darkness of this time of year.

As I record this we are just days from the winter solstice, the day with the least daylight and the most darkness. For months we’ve been marching along, losing a minute plus here, two minutes or so there every day until we hit the darkest day of the year, Dec. 21 with 5 hours, 27 minutes, 44 seconds of daylight. That’s 13 hours, 54 minutes less daylight than we had in June on the longest day of the year. That’s a big loss.

But after Dec. 21 it starts coming back. On Dec. 22 we’ll have 5 hours, 27 minutes, 47 seconds of daylight. So you can see it doesnt all come back at once, but just creeps up on you until one day in February you realize, hey, the sun is in my eyes and Im feeling bright! But that’s a subject for a different time.

In the meantime, as Barb pointed out, you find light in some different, sometimes less obvious places. There’s the light of twinkle lights or the menorah marking the holiday season. There’s the sparkle light on fresh snow created by the low sun in the sky. That snowy sparkle has a way of magically magnifying the sun in a perfect, peaceful way. There’s the light on the ski hill that can push winter activities comfortably into the dark hours, or the light of a headlamp tracing your path up the trail or marking the ascent of a friend when you spot headed up the mountain as you do your errands in town.

There’s the light of stars and dancing aurora, celestial spectaculars you can only see in the dark months — inspirational gifts from the universe for enduring it all.

You can find light in wonder – in curiosity, in awe, in hunting for inspiration. This is the light that sets your soul on fire and keeps you moving, powering through the darkness.

And then there’s my favorite kind of winter light: the light of other humans who push through the darkness with you.

Outdoor friends have long been one of my favorite gifts of my daily outdoor habit. These are people who are heading out there too, finding all the benefits of nature. They are people who know that there is strength in numbers, and that when you do something outside with someone else, you’re more likely to complete it and push past the barriers that would’ve sent you scurrying home before it was actually needed.

And they are people who are willing to walk alongside you when the literal and figurative darkness is becoming too heavy. Their cheer or simply their presence is like a golden beam, radiating into a dark space.

I found these outdoor friends by spending time outside at community events — a way to shake-up my outdoor minutes when things were getting drab and redundant. I found them among the warming fire pits — another source of light — at the public ski area, or warming in the ale house trading stories about the hard run we just powered through despite the wind or fresh snow.

There’s a lot of research in this post pandemic world pointing out the severe mental and physical health problems creating by feelings of loneliness. And yes, it is possible to feel lonely when surrounded by other humans with whom you lack connection.

Loneliness is really a personal kind of darkness, and breaking out of it, in my experience, takes effort — and hunting for the light.

I love the winter and summer solstice for the opportunity to pause and celebrate the joy given by light, and the people who deliver it in their own ways. Even if you live somewhere with far more light than I have here in the Anchorage area, would you join me in celebrating the light of others?

You can see photos of my outdoor time with other humans and without them on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. And I want to see your photos too, tag them with #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Jump To section



Humans Outside Instagram

How does spending at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day since Sept. 1, 2017 change your life? 

We’re on a mission to find out.

[instagram-feed feed=1]

JOIN Us Today


Keep up with the latest podcast episodes, resources and announcements