Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fading Light

Light, or the lack thereof, is the lens through which we view the world. My favorite lens is the hour just before sunset.

Driving on a narrow country road, the landscape, having baked all day under the unforgiving August sun, becomes pastoral. The yellow-gold light transforms everything. Green is deeper and richer, the tassels on the corn gold instead of brown. Even the rusting hulk of an old trailer becomes aged and venerable instead of the monument to rural poverty it was in the bright light of day.

I slow as a deer crosses the road and watch her white tail disappear into the woods. In these golden moments before the light glows orange, the softness of the world outside my window is mirrored in my heart.

"It's beautiful."

But even as the words cross my lips, a wistful longing tempers my happiness. Nothing gold can stay. The light is already changing, the yellow tinged with orange. The shadows have stretched out stealthily while no one was watching and the spaces between the light, the low places where it can't reach, have grown dimmer.

I sigh with relief when I top the hill, but it is short-lived. The sinking sun catches in the windows of a white clapboard house and blinds me. Fire shimmers in the glass.

This red-orange lens is different, less friendly...not the harsh reality of midday, but the precursor of the darkness to come. Red is passion, anger, lust, pain burning up the light, extinguishing it, so they can perform their rites in the dark.

I reach the end of the country road at true dusk. Headlights dot the interstate, artificial light to ward off the night. The effort is futile. The false light can't bring back the green or the gold or the orange. Technicolor has reverted to black and white like the Wizard of Oz gone horribly wrong.

The darkness should inspire dread, and in fact, before the light disappeared, the deepening shadows made my heart beat anticipation.

I used to be afraid of the dark. Now, I find myself embracing it, using it to tease out an idea or a story. The gold light softens the world, but the darkness hides it, morphing it into indistinguishable shapes, or blotting it out altogether. When the world outside my window is unclear, I can impose my will on it and remake it into whatever I want. Sometimes, that's not a bad thing at all.

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