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  • Writer's pictureTerry Pace

The Dark

By Guy Clark (RIP 1941 - 2016)

Guy Clark was an amazing songwriter and musician. He wrote songs with such an eye for life's details and how so many of these common experiences mark the changing, passing, pleasure and pain of our days. I have read Clark's autobiography (Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark, 2016). It is a really good read if Texas outlaw country music or Americana is your thing. Guy was a fellow west Texan having been born in Monahans, Texas. His songs LA Freeway and Desperadoes Waiting for a Train were both top hits in the USA and his album "My Favorite Picture of You" (2014) won the grammy for best folk album.

I was draw to the authenticity of his music, the stories his songs told of love, loss, and getting through life amidst it's many beauties and heart breaks. I have always loved the gravel and depth to his voice, which I find richly soothing. Guy Clark was a friend and musical associate of Townes Van Zandt, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Jeff Walker, Steve Earle and Verlon Thompson. He married the Oklahoma City native, Susanna Clark who was a noted painter and musician.

This particular song, "The Dark" was released on the album by the same name in 2002. It is a song that on the surface is about how our experiences and of course our vision changes in the dark, in the night; and how we can often see things and thus think and feel, remember things that in the brightness and busy activity of the daytime and the light may be obscured. Here Clark gives us reminders of what we might miss if we exclude the dark and night from our lives:

Fireflies and sparks and lightening and stars

Campfires, the moon, headlights on cars

The Northern Lights and the Milky Way

You can't see that stuff in the day

He turns the song inward as well when he sings "In the dark you can sometimes hear your own heartbeat; Or the heart of the one next to you." The song brings a quietness of spirit and an encouragement to slow down and also learn to appreciate the night and things that can only be known to us during such times. In my own mind, our loss of the quietness of the night and the stars may be part of what so ails us as 21st century people, with light and cities and indoor entertainment, but we search for peace despite all else we may have. I have had a life long habit of stepping out into the dark almost every night, taking walks or just enjoying a moment of newness and stars and the changing seasons and times of my own life. It seems in the dark is where these things become most clear to me.

At the end of the song Clark sings:

And how dark is it?

Its too dark for goblins

And how dark is it?

Its so dark you can smell the moon

How dark is it?

Its so dark the wind gets lost

How dark is it?

Its so dark, the sky is on fire

How dark is it?

Its so dark you can almost see Ft Worth from here

Growing up on the southern high plains of west Texas, the towns 30 miles or more away were often visible on the horizon in the darkest nights. As a child, sometimes the lights of Lubbock (the big city for me) could be seen in the distance from our farm, as if floating up in the air (a mirage based on various weather factors and having clear vision to the natural horizon). This was always a treat to see in the the dark and a memory that still leaves me with a feeling of wonder. I hope you will give Guy Clark a listen and that you will spend sometime in the dark and especially under a dark night sky. Perhaps, some of us are afraid of the dark, but as Bob Dylan sings in his song "Red River Shore:" "Some of us scare ourselves in the dark; To be where the angels fly." The night is also holy and made by God and angels might be known if we but let time, quietness and the darkness open our eyes.

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