My love of being outside at night began when my mother decided I was old enough to sit on the front porch with my brother on cool summer evenings. I loved watching the street lights sparkling through leaves on the trees and being a part of quiet conversations. Another happy memory is sitting at the Cafe Du Monde in the French quarter in New Orleans. When cabin fever struck at 11 p.m. and I wanted a safe place to hang, I loved sitting outside and soaking up the night time ambiance. So when my brother suggested we see the miles of Christmas lights at the Brookfield Zoo I was eager to go.
I did well while it was still dusk (photo on left). When the sun went down (photo below) I had trouble seeing where vertical was. My stroke hit the pons which is the bridge to the cerebellum where balance is controlled. My cerebellum gets so little vestibular information from my inner ears that it needs visual input to tell if I am vertical. Once I started guessing by watching the dark outlines of people walking in front of me I lurched side-to-side to correct the poor guesses I made. This rocking motion wore me out and brought my walking to a halt after 45 minutes. Walking for years in well lit parking lots didn't prepare me for the balance challenge that real darkness creates.
My nights of extended walking outdoors in the dark are over. I'm going to restrict myself to night time activities that require sitting --- like watching people skate. I got to see children smile when their parents kept them from falling. I got to watch funny interactions among dating couples who had unequal skating skills. I got to look at Chicago's beautiful Michigan Avenue. I got to breathe the crisp night air and appreciate my warm coat, mittens, and scarf. I got to enjoy a fun evening with my brother. Once again I learned the hard way that walking = mobility + problem solving.