I awoke in the middle of the night, recalling a story from a book by Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom. As a young physician-in-training, Dr. Remen visited a patient at a residential facility. She found the elderly woman in her room seated by the window, staring out across the grounds. After some time Dr. Remen gently asked the woman what she was staring at. “Why, my dear,” the woman answered, “I’m looking at the light.”
As I write at my desk this morning, it is still dark outside. Soon I will rise and drive through the darkness to the gym for my morning workout. When I return home two hours later, the morning light will have broken through.
Last week it rained, melting away most of the January snow. By midday the sky had cleared, but the roads were still wet. As I drove home into the sun, the road ahead took on a silver brilliance. At one point I swear the double yellow line in the middle of the road turned burnt orange in the late afternoon light.
Light defines color, and color changes with it. Like a professional artist, we have to train our eyes to see: first morning light, when forms begin to appear from shadows; intense faultless blue mid-day sky overhead; turquoise mid-afternoon brightness flickering on the bottom of the pool; brilliant orange backlight defining purple-pink clouds at eventide.
It won’t be long before the days begin to lengthen appreciably once again, when I step outside the office at the end of the work day to witness the early evening light.
As winter draws toward spring, I find myself searching. Like Dr. Remen’s patient, I’m looking for the light.