WE ARE THE LIGHT, WE ARE THE DARK
It’s that time of the year when the light changes, of course it’s been changing all along but then one day it’s as if it all catches up and suddenly you realize, it got dark so early and then, oh, right, summer is ending.
It’s hard for me to write those words. I resist the ending of summer, I’m a summer baby and growing up my entire year revolved around summer. School would start in early September and I would count the days until summer break which back then was three glorious months long; it culminated in the month of August and my birthday, which I count as the beginning of the year. Such a leo.
The trees start to turn here around the first of August. It’s slight but if you look you can see it. I have denied this ever since we’ve moved here—no, no, summer isn’t ending yet, it’s only the beginning of August, there’s still a month and a half to go. Bobby likes to point out where the trees are changing—“oh, look, here comes fall.” For our first several years here I would resist, verging on anger at my precious summer being taken from me. “maybe there’s some strange blight,” I’d suggest and I got him to play along so that now he says, “I saw a tree today, so strange, it appeared to be dying,” and I know he’s telling me, gently, darling, summer is coming to an end.
Sitting on the couch in our living room, I face two large windows that look out across the yard to the tall trees at its edge. The view is always changing. During the summer, the play of light through the leaves is magical. I always want there to be a word for that but we don’t have one. Dappled gets used a lot—the leaves were dappled with sunlight, but it’s the quality of being filtered through the leaves that I want to capture. The Japanese have a word for it--komorebi, which roughly translates as “the scattered light that filters through when sunlight shines through trees.” The Japanese get so many things right.
Growing up in Southern California we didn’t have that summer light stretching late into the night. But when I began to visit the northeast in the summer—visiting friends in Canada, my cousins in Vermont—I got to experience nights where the light stretched past eight, then nine; even at 10pm there were wisps of subtle orange and pink over on the horizon.
We talk about light as if it’s better than dark—I’ve been guilty of this myself. In poetic terms we look for the light, something illuminated that can lead us through times of uncertainty and fear. The light at the end of the tunnel.
My friend Nick Gillie talks about light and darkness in a new and remarkable way—Nick is black and he’s studied blackness and the African American experience for many years. He’s starting a new organization called Black University. Nick has come to reframe darkness as a place where the soul resides, believing that there is power in the dark and it is a feminine power. Creativity resides in darkness, as does inspiration. In Nick’s paradigm, the darkness is ruled over by Dionysius. It’s a chaotic place. Light then is a place of dominance and masculine power. Rational thought, self discipline—neither of which I’m terribly familiar with. Apollo rules the light, where laws are made and right angles appear. It’s tidier in the light, well ordered, chaos has been tamed.
When I used to teach acting I developed an oppositional approach. To help someone become their biggest self—work toward their weakness. I do this with writers now, too--someone is great with detail so you want them to think about themes. If a person knows how to write action, ask them to work on setting, detail, character, mood.
Not to diminish what is strong in them but to trust it, and then hang on it, then reach across to the other side of their talent. People grow this way, they stretch. The scope of their creativity swells.
My relationship to the light is changing, I can see that now. I notice the slight bits of color In the woods and it doesn’t hurt me. Yes, I feel nostalgia for these beautiful days where we’ve been able to leave the doors and windows all day and night, the summer sounds coming alive as it gets dark—whirring, growls and chirps. Eating outside on the patio. Oh, summer, don’t go!
But I see now that I’m actually a creature of the dark. My world bubbles up with murky ideas and irrational visions. I deal in dreams and fantasy. Where I live there are strange harmonies that come in and out and ribbons of soul trail through the skies, faintly sparkling.
It’s not because I am the light that I love the light but because I am also of the dark. A part of me stretches toward the sun, because it hopes to grow, to learn balance. I visit the rational world so that I can order what I’ve made in the shadows. And, the light in me stretches toward the dark and I'm not afraid.
The trees aren’t dying, they’re preparing to make something new.