There is something about walking at night. The experience of it is so different from walking in the daytime. There is pleasant disorientation even in familiar terrain. The known becomes unknown and new. The darkness, and the cold of winter, keep others away bringing a stillness and communion with things that are bigger than the us – the moon, the stars, the far distant horizons.
The ability to blend in with the night is a lure: to become enveloped by the darkness and the security of not being seen. To become the people who lurk in the shadows. There is empowerment in being a woman who walks at night, in rewriting the script of fear that runs alongside the female experience of the city. There is a reclaiming of the night and a mating of two strange bedfellows: exhilaration and peacefulness.
Human night vision slowly unfolds as the minutes pass, honing all the other senses; the process of becoming a nocturnal animal is a powerful one. There is walking at night and then there is walking by the light of a clear full moon. Now is a chance to turn off artificial light from torches – which can draw unwanted attention – and really see beyond a small halo of vision.
There is hiking on the hills at the edge of the city, usually busy with people but empty now except for a few silhouetted horned cattle. There is crunching through a carpet of fresh snow, reflecting the moonlight and lighting the way.
There is doing all this with other women. The conversations and experiences are different somehow. A snowman with carefully moulded male genitals brings a fun opportunity to smash the patriarchy – or at least crack a few jokes about it. It is a bonding experience.
It's important to stop and listen, too. Too much talking and the experience is lessened. Stop and a meltwater path can be heard softly bubbling down the hill. The squelch of deep mud. The scrunch of snow. The M5's distant hum. The fizz of an electricity pylon.
I long for a silent walk but I also don't want to walk alone at night. Besides walking together and sharing the experience is important. How do you find others to walk with? A few weeks ago I met Laura Babb for the first time. We went for a walk around our home neighbourhood of Stirchley and discussed doing a night walk. Last week we merged our female friends who walk into a Whatsapp group called 'Wild Women Walking' and it feels like something exponentially bigger and connective has been born from that first walk. We may not know each other yet but we are all fish of the same stripe. There will be more walks. Because, for sunrises and night walks, winter is our time.
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