Fear of the Dark

I wrote my novel Hidden View in bits and pieces, in notebooks, on a computer, in endless rewrites on the back of printed pages. I began this book during my daughter’s nap time, those golden hours when I could sit down and breathe creativity in the solitude writing demands. I wrote for no one but the novel itself: to write as well and truly as I could.

This book has joined the world. It’s out there, for the taking and reading. When I think about what made this book, I took what I had at hand: a ball of yarn, imaginary rabbits, Vermont’s exquisite and desolate winter, a house both a solace and a menace. But equally driving the book are three forces. One of these is mothering. Like the ceaseless gritty wind in a canyon, my children have formed and hewn me, in a multitude of ways I never could have imagined. My children are my anchor, the physical weight that has pinned me to this soil and forced me to know the world in an expanse I never could have imagined.

When my older daughter was a baby, my husband left the state for work, and the baby and I remained. On a 100 acres, our house is surrounded by woods. At that time, I was afraid of the dark. When the baby slept at night, I had to walk down to the unlit sugarhouse in the dark, by only the thin light of a flashlight and the stars overhead. Those months were late fall then, around this time of year, and the nights were cold. The rural dark in Vermont is so profound I have held my hand inches before my face and yet been blind to my own flesh. I forced myself to go out in the dark, because I knew every journey would lessen my fear. And I knew I could not mother this baby, in this house, in this agricultural life, if I feared the dark.

Of the dark, at least, I am no longer afraid.

The true self seeks release, not constraint. It doesn’t want to be corseted in a sonnet or made to learn a system of musical notations. It wants liberation, which is why very often it fastens on the novel, for the novel seems spacious, undefined, free.

–– Rachel Cusk


Milkweed Seed/Morrisville, Vermont/Photo by Molly S.

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