Night walk, Light walk

Wednesday night it rained, and, since I was, as usual of late, unable to sleep, I decided to go for a 1 a.m. walk as the rain tapered off to a light shower. Our house is built into the side of a hill (great for energy conservation), and as I walked down the steps to the driveway, the front gardens (my wife’s pride and joy) were glistening with moisture in the light of the coach-lamps.

The light in every place, at every different season, at each time of day, in every different kind of weather, is unique. Sunsets, for example, or the hue of the sky after a thunderstorm, in England, where I was born, in the Prairies, where I grew up, on the Pacific Coast, in Paris, in Amsterdam, in Guyana, and in Sydney, each have completely different light spectra, palpably different. You could knock me unconscious, take me to one of these places, to a nondescript area with no distinguishing landmarks, and block all of my senses except sight, and I could tell you which place it was simply by the light.

I think other animals appreciate this intuitively. They don’t need GPS to navigate their way when they migrate huge distances — they somehow know it just by the light. When Eliot wrote

Every street lamp that I pass   
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium

I think he was describing how the light ‘recalls’ other times in this precise place, at this time, at this season, in this kind of weather. This unique and particular juxtaposition of light is what defines place for us. We recognize it, or do not and take in its novelty, its strangeness, and subconsciously catalogue it so when next we see this same, precise light we will know it. We will say I know this place. And place is so important to us, poor wretched nomadic ever-searching creatures that we have become!

This extraordinary capacity to nuance the result of millions of photons striking our neurons and firing along the synapses to our brain in a unique and recognizable way is what tells us the way home (the place to which we belong), and then tells us we are home. The Latin word lumen means at once light and open space — place. The words illuminate and enlighten denote light but connote knowing. In the dark, when our rod cell receptors take over the heavy duty from the cone cell receptors, we appreciate (= make grow) the light, and the spaces and places it reveals and defines, better than we do in the extravagant light of day.

All we need to do, to find our way to any place, is follow the light. Were it so easy to find the people we were meant to be with!

So I walked up the driveway and started around the block. I was smiling like a fool, intoxicated by the lights, by these special and unique places, by my recognizing them, knowing them. I am told that mesalamine, the anti-inflammatory drug I am taking, causes what is called “light sensitivity”, and I wondered if I was high on light. It was a delightful feeling. Every light I saw — streetlight, coachlight, porchlight, solar walkway light, incandescent and fluorescent lights from the windows of the houses I passed — was beckoning to me, inviting me to recognize it, know it, differentiate it from all other lights. I stopped and took photographs, but what the camera captured was not even a shadow what I saw. I wondered if this new awareness of light and shadow was another manifestation of my (largely unconscious) Let-Self-Change process, or just a transient side-effect of the drugs I am taking.

Whatever its cause, I was (and am often, these days) euphoric (did you know the literal meaning of that word is healthy? — when we aren’t in a naturally euphoric state it means we’re unhealthy). I was connecting, in a profound and emotional way, with the lights I passed, stopping at each one. Each light was telling me the story of its place. It was as if I could feel the photons hitting my eyes, my face, my body. I suddenly recalled this passage from Sam Phillips’ song:

Give up the ground under your feet
Hold on to nothing for good
Turn and run at the mean times chasing you
Stand alone and misunderstood
And now that I’ve worn out, I’ve worn out the world
I’m on my knees in fascination
Looking through the night
And the moon’s never seen me before
But I’m reflecting light

And I started singing that mournful, wistful song. And all alone, in the darkness, in the light, I was laughing, and dancing (the song is awaltz).

And I was beaming.

This entry was posted in Our Culture / Ourselves. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Night walk, Light walk

  1. Jon Husband says:

    a moment of peak experience ? Lovely.

  2. Mariella says:

    I always wonder, with “wonder”, how it happens, that when life gets hard with us, it, at the same time, also “enlighten” us…. drug consequence or not, the experience has been lived….. good for you Dave!

  3. Alvin says:

    Sounds like a wonderful experience, Dave :)To paraphrase Einstein, a sense of wonder is the most important quality human beings can have, something which I’ve acutely (and painfully) have become aware of that I’ve lost, and am now working to get back.I didn’t know that euphoric means healthy, that’s certainly a mind-opener ;)

Comments are closed.