Waiting for the light.

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

I was sitting across from Sammy just moments ago, and she lit up with a golden glow. No, this isn’t any mysterious superpower. It’s just the morning sun, finally cresting the ridge of the hill across from us. Well, I say ‘just’, but we’re in a place where the quality of light…how it casts a rich, angled gold at days beginning and day’s end…is why we travel to places like this.

Hello from New Mexico, a place quite unlike Michigan, Nebraska, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, or any of the California Coast we’ve explored on this multi-thousand mile trip.

And yet the constant (for me at least) through these road days has been a solar (and lunar)-defined rhythm. The sun sinks below the horizon and we take a few minutes to savor the last rays cast on clouds.

Before we see the moon above a ridgetop at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, we watch western mountains bathed in blue, ghostly light, seemingly from nowhere, and then spin around, looking back east, as the tiniest sliver of full-on moonlight breaks above the rock cliffs by the edge of our campsite. Then, over just a minute or two, the moonlight bursts free, and plays, like a roving spotlight, across the desert floor, and its full intensity is enough for even my old eyes to read by.

Next morning, the sun follows a similar route, and provides a bolder range of visual effects. Add or subtract the ocean (and humidity)…take us down to sea level or up thousands of feet, and the visual display continues to delight. Always the same processes at work…always a spectacularly different experience.