Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Nature of Light

(c) Patrick Smith, for The Nature Conservancy

It being March 1, I flipped over calendar pages today to the fresh month. This photo stopped me in my tracks.

Photoshopped? Color enhanced? Real? The photographer's notes say he captured the day's dying light in the wet lava sand of a Hawaiian island.

Maybe what he really captured was a glimpse of the infinite.

My formal science instruction stopped with "Rocks and Stars" at Chicago many decades ago. So I am not one to dissect or speculate on the scientific nature of light. The closest I can come to that is to quote Jennifer Tipton, stage lighting expert and MacArthur genius: Light is the measure of the universe. It comes together for one instant--instant after instant.

We are coming back into the days of light here. The equinox is only 19 days away. Back in deep December, the morning sun turned away from its slow path south and started edging its way north again. As of yesterday, it was almost to the gap between the north side of our backyard neighbor's house and their garage. 

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner has written about our fascination with light, particularly when it comes to spiritual belief: At the darkest time of the year, the tiniest bit of light reminds us that we are all literally whistling in the dark and hoping, by these rituals of miracles of candlelight and bulbs on evergreens, we remember the divine presence. 

Maybe all I am doing in whistling in the dark. Who ever really knows? I have been reading works about death by individuals who were dying as they wrote. (I don't mean dying in the sense of being aware that all of us are mortal. I mean dying as in these authors were in the end stages of terminal cancer.) They write a lot about making peace with death. They also capture (heartrendingly so in some cases) the author's awareness and sense of the dying light of one's own life. 

Out of their writings, out of my other readings, out of my own inborn sense of light, I often turn to the words of Thomas Merton: Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time.

The divine was shining on that beach. It was shining in the stars overhead two nights ago when I stepped outside. It is shining at the smallest moments through the smallest cracks.

I just need to look.

Linking up with Michelle at Graceful:  


see you there! said...

Beautiful words. I find natural light fascinating, I like the play between light and dark just as I enjoy the breathing space between lines and space.


Terri said...

That Merton quotation is so beautiful and so true. Like you, as this post loaded, I had the same questions about this picture. Initially, I had thought it was a painting. I know as I live my life I often notice qualities of light...and wish that I was a better photographer to capture the magic moments that my awareness of our Creator touches me.

Sharon said...

I love this series, and I love your writing April. Once again, to take the time to reflect on what is around us is life changing.