Rendered Fat Content


Ohara Koson: Bush Warbler in Winter (Ca. 1900-1910s)

"The brightest light on the darkest night of the year …"

Six months ago, light came wrapped in heat. We prayed for sunset, when the hostilities might hesitate overnight, but only to reassert themselves shortly after the following first light. We cowered from light then, when only darkness brought respite and light just seemed punishing. Between sunscreen and sunglasses, we'd suit up whenever we headed outside, long sleeves, long pants, and broad-brimmed hats. We'd rush between places, limiting the time we'd spend outside of our air conditioned spaces, constantly consuming cold beverages. The summer solstice brought more light than we wanted and more heat than we could handle.

Six months later, the light comes with cold in the form of snow which seems to emanate bright.
The longest night of the year features also the brightest night of the year, with a brilliant snow cover taking over when the sun started fading just after 3:15 yesterday afternoon. By four, it was dark as night but with a curious twist. The snow cover seemed phosphorescent. It glowed warmly just out the window, and brought that famous 'luster of midday to objects below' it. I had not noticed just how brilliant that ColdLight could get and I wondered if there might not be something I'd been missing in my understanding of this abject Solstice, where we celebrate what we don't yet have but longingly aspire to possess, namely, light and its warmth.

With the advent of central heating and other marvels, though, many of our forebears' fears no longer haunt us. For those of us with a decent HVAC system, summer or winter hardly matter. We're insulated from the greatest extremes. And even daylight can be easily emulated in those new fixtures by simply selecting a setting on a switch. We're hardly freezing in a cave or stinking in an attic suspended above a barn so that the animal's heat and smells can slip up through the floors, along with their fleas, to keep us warm and itching through overlong windowless nights. We no longer live in a world lit only by fire, but lit by ten thousand different sources from fireplaces to candles to, it seems, sometimes even ourselves.

The street below my window overlooking the center of the universe shines with an icy sheen, as beautiful as anything I've ever seen. Car tracks in the snow remind me of the streetcar tracks that used to turn right here but do so no longer, though I can still sense the outline of the rails beneath the asphalt. I can barely see the snow falling, though I sense its presence like I once could sense the sunlight when I'd close my eyes on a sweaty summer afternoon. Light does not accumulate like snow, though. Who knows where it goes? Overall, I'd claim snow the more reliable light source. It shines even through the night. It amplifies the weak stuff the sun passes out on the Winter Solstice. It decks the place with a reassuring seasonal sense. The colder it seems outside, the warmer it seems in here.

I spent the last few weeks dreading what came next. I knew, or imagined that I did, what was coming next, a bleak season devoid of pleasing pastimes. No baseball. No gardening. No carefree idling beneath the sacred apricot's canopy. I imagined myself held captive, surrounded by a hostile world. My fears, it seems, were all Homemade, projected on a screen of not quite whole cloth. My fears were true as I imagined the truth to be, by which I mean, true to me. In practice they proved false, or at least so-far false, for I cannot except through projection determine what comes next. What's here, I might conquer by simple observation. What's next requires imagination which might or might not hold promise, depending.

ColdLight refers to a calm and accepting form of observation, not an anxious projection. I woke this morning to write the last story in my Homemade Series in ColdLight, a light I had not, in all my anxious projecting, anticipated encountering, but here it is and here I am. I might take a small lesson on this darkest night of the year, smack dab in the middle of my self-proclaimed bleak season, and find reason to appreciate. If this is bleak, bring on more of it. If this is the darkest night of the year, I figure I have little to fear from the long nights coming between tonight and Spring. Spring will bring what Spring brings. Until then, I'm called to make the best of what I've got. The brightest light on the darkest night of the year was apparently all Homemade in ColdLight.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver