The day dawned hot and dry, with only a few wispy clouds scudding along the horizon. By midday, those clouds had dissipated, and the wind began to lay. Then, the passage of the sea breeze brought more clouds, and a sudden burst of rain.
Lasting no more than three or four minutes, the rain soaked the cypress trees outside my window; with the return of late afternoon sunlight, droplets of water began to sparkle and shine.
When a sudden flash of color caught my eye, I began to watch the interplay of water and light. Despite the absence of violet and indigo, the vibrant and endlessly changing colors of the droplets suggested nature had disassembled a rainbow, and hung it from my trees.
Comments always are welcome.
Loblolly and Light
After spending a few hours on the Big Thicket’s Pitcher Plant and Turkey Creek trails last Sunday, I nearly had regained the trailhead when I looked up, searching for bits of autumn color in the still mostly green trees.
Instead of color, a vision of what I first imagined to be an enormous orb-weaver’s web stopped me in my tracks. There was no larger-than-life spider lurking, of course. There was only a loblolly pine, and the sun, and a phenomenon I’d never before seen. Despite their apparently random distribution, the pine needles had transformed the light into a beautifully circular pattern; it was nature, not my camera, that had created the effect.
At the time, I didn’t think anything at all; I only stood, and wondered at the sight. Later, I remembered a favorite passage from Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and realized I’d been granted my own vision of a tree with the lights in it.
One day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The lights of the fire abated, but I’m still spending the power.
Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had my whole life been a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck. I have since only rarely seen the tree with the lights in it. The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.
Comments always are welcome.
NOTE: I consulted Jim Ruebush, who taught physics for years, and here’s what he had to say about the effect: ““In the fully enlarged image, the pine needles radiate out in all directions. But, the only ones that reflect brightly to the camera direction are aligned circumfully (if that is not a word, it is now) to the sun. Their surfaces act like long narrow mirrors. Needles aligned any other way don’t reflect brightly to the camera.” Or, to the human eye!