Growing up in the South, I was accustomed to a more diffuse quality of light that results from the humidity. I came to cherish the rare moments of clarity when the air was relatively dry–glorious October afternoons sliding slowly into sunsets that glowed like the heart of a slow burning fire. The foxfire reflection of Winter dusk against the skeletal branches of leafless trees, or the moment of sunrise seen through those branches–incandescent and magical. These moments pierced me with their beauty. It became something I marked in my world.
Moving to New Mexico, while a shock, fed this hunger for the light. Dusk, much like Dawn in that valley was a source of constant wonder. I often walked to the grocery store during the Gilded Hour, which is what I called that long, stretching time that precedes twilight. The Smith’s on Constitution and Carlisle was easily reached by residential streets that ran parallel to the busy Boulevard. So, rather than go all the way down to the big intersection and then walk the half mile amidst the constant disturbance of traffic, I simply cut down a side street.
This gave me the opportunity to see what had been done to various houses and gardens–what was in bloom, who had put out a new bird feeder, mended the adobe wall by their patio. But most especially, I walked lost in the light. There is a special quality to the light in that place during that time of day, and there are no words to describe it to my satisfaction. No camera can ever quite capture it. You have to go walking in it. It is at once gauzy and painfully clear–as if the light had substance and yet floated more freely through the dry, dusted air. It is nothing short of exquisite. I would watch the way it spilled through tree branches and between houses, how it smeared itself over every surface, the adobe drinking it in roseate hues my eyes learned to see over time. I never stopped marveling at all the ways the light could change, transforming both itself and the landscape of natural and artificial surfaces.
All too often, a half mile of walking would occupy almost a full hour, because I would stop, and let out a gasp, watching the way an enormous, snowy boule of cloud took that light. White it was, but also tinctured with azure and saffron, smokey lavender and flirtations with the color pink for which I have no name. A passerby might have thought me in the grip of a sudden cramp, so much did my sigh sound like pain. While I was not suffering from a vicious Charlie Horse, I was definitely in pain of a sort. The reservoir of my Self was overflowing in that moment, and I didn’t care who saw or heard that agony of the ecstatic.
I treasured these moments, frequent though they were in comparison to what I had known before. Light is different everywhere–no two regions will capture it in the same way for all it comes from the same source. I remember standing on a street corner more than once, as the sun slipped molten into that crucible of the west, watching the transformation of a city avenue. The cars moved past me, ghostly in a river of shadows, while the buildings still held the last warmth of light on their westward faces. I felt no shame that I stood, head thrown back, mouth ajar with delighted laughter, watching a flock of pigeons wheel and angle in that light. They would swoop up, their breasts and flight feathers etched in bright gold only to turn and dance closely with their own silhouettes on the buildings. It was mesmerizing, much like watching waves slide up the sand of a dusky beach, receding and returning.
And so, I leave this entry with a question. Should one hide their pleasure or fail to experience it at all for the sake of modern sensibilities? Or should we revel in it, regardless of the opinions of others? Though I may be branded as socially awkward for these things, I don’t know that I could be any other way. There are too many other things to jade and disappoint to turn away what delights my soul.