A few nights ago I left my headlights on while downtown and killed my car battery. It was about 8 pm and the quickest way home was to walk to a bus stop, take the #25 up Amazon Rd., then walk about a mile up a trail (shown below) through a forest that connects from Eugene to our road just outside of the city.
I've been on this trail countless times and I know it pretty well. It's my normal bike path between my home and town. But I had rarely done the trail in reverse, and never in the dark. And boy was it dark! The trail travels through dense woods which blocked the stars, there was no moon, no streetlights, I had no light of any kind. I know it's a cliche but I literally could not see my hands in front of me. I was totally blind.
Luckily the trail was very well worn. By slowly feeling with my feet I could find the level dirt area that told me I was on the path. Once in a while I'd step off into brush or into the hillside, and when this happened I'd correct myself. All in all it took about 40 minutes to travel the mile, and it was quite an interesting experience.
In the past few years, I think this is the longest I have been without light. When it's dark and I am at home or at a public place or in my car, there is always at least some small amount of light visible somewhere. When asleep we leave a nightlight on downstairs for the kids to find the bathroom. If I am sleeping outside there is often a natural ambient light of nighttime which permeates any open area, even in the darkest part of night. In virtually every public setting in America, streetlights or houselights are visible. In fact you really have to go to some effort to make your environment lightless, either tuck yourself in a closet or put on a blindfold, or stumble down a wooded path at night.
As someone whose daily photographic practice relies on the existence of light I found the lack of it enlightening and delightful. It some ways it was the opposite of photography.