The Beauty of the Night

Room in New York by Edward Hopper

There’s something I like about looking out my window at night.

I mostly like to keep my blinds open when it’s dark and I know people can’t see in, like when I lived on the second story of my dorm in college. Maybe it was there that I developed an attraction to the squarish-rectangular frame, scored with many white lines against an enchanting night sky. Late at night, after gruesome hours of homework, I’d sit alone in my cozy dorm, fixated on that window. Sometimes I’d open it and let the cool air in. It didn’t have a curtain. It wasn’t that pretty.

Now I live in a ‘garden level’ apartment, and I’m pretty sure someone could see every inch of it if they were looking through our open blinds at night. But I keep them open anyway, because I like to look at the dark.

What is it about looking out my window when it’s night and I can’t see anything? For some reason I think I’ve always done this. I remember living in an apartment with my mom that had vertical blinds across the sliding glass patio doors. You know, those awful clanky bands of plastic? I spent so much time looking at them trying to devise an alternative over the course of my early teen years that I was inspired to write a dramatic novel someday and give it the title of “Vertical Blindness.” I imagined it being about someone who was afraid to look up or down because of some kooky reason and the main conflict would be that they had to jump off a building or something comic-strip worthy like that, and there would be some emotional scene beforehand where the main character  looks down from her 20th story window with dread through the vertical blinds. “But Jill, you’re so AFRAID of heights! You CAN’T jump off this building to fulfill the book title!” Then Jill loses her eyesight.

There’s something magical about the color of the sky at night. It’s beautiful. I can imagine it having different textures. Velvety, watery, or a canvas soaked in paint. It’s almost black. But I look into it trying to see the blue. The other magical thing about the night sky is how it seems like anything can happen once that dark curtain gets pulled across it. Night time memories rush in like heavy ocean waves.

One of the most glamorous experiences of the night I have is from a time when I drove my pianist peers to a piano recital in downtown Kansas City. It was one of my first nights out downtown after moving to KC from a small town in Nebraska. So, rightfully, every streetlight and electric twinkle made me tingle. Add this to the glory of driving my upperclassmen friends to the swanky recital in my little Saturn and you get one captivating evening; a memory to last a lifetime. Even better, the people in that car came to be some of my very closest friends. I even married one of them.

If the quintessential expression of city-light adoration is taking in as many sparkles on as many buildings as possible, the best memories I have include:

  • Peering out the 360 degree wall of windows on the top floor of the Hilton in a restaurant called Skies. The restaurant rotated slowly, letting guests like myself take in every mouth-watering inch of Crown Center, Cross Roads, Westport, West Side, and a distant Plaza as far as the eye could see.
  • Gazing googley-eyed over the dazzling, dizzying array of lights in NYC from the top of Rockefeller Center with the love of my life.
  • Squinting at the glinty shore of NYC, views including the Statue of Liberty and a hint of Times Square glam, from the deck of our choir trip cruise ship, also with my honey-babe.
  • Views from inside planes flying over cities at night.

There, from up high, the lights shine so bright against the dark blue sky I can’t help but want to take a picture or a hundred. Somehow these moments seemed transcendent. I think to me those bright city lights symbolize joy and opportunity. Definitely good memories with people I love. Lights that shine in the darkness have obvious symbolism.

When I look out my window at night through those horizontal blinds that aren’t far from op-art, I am a light in the darkness. The minutes tick by on the clock on my wall, but the stillness remains. The dark is out there, and the light is in here. I feel a deep peacefulness in knowing that this stillness comes every night, and that there is a quiet restfulness – apartness from the rush of the day – that bleeds out anxiety, that defines and distinguishes the two mediums, light and darkness.

There is light within. And if someone can see inside my window, maybe that’s not so bad.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John


“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” – Genesis


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