Thursday, August 6, 2009

Light



Here is the understatement of the year: walking under rain clouds is not nearly as fun as walking in the sunlight. I had a chance to experience that again this Sunday when I walked from Hastings-on-Hudson back into Harlem on a day that alternated between drizzle and torrential downpours. Somewhere in Yonkers, it struck me. It wasn't the rain that made the day feel depressing, it was the gray sky ... the utter absence of healing Light.

That became clear to me when I remembered how truly wonderful and almost mystical it was to play in a sun shower when I was a child. Two beautiful forces - sun and water - brought together in an unlikely dance that would only last for few fleeting minutes. It is hard to not crack a smile in a sun shower.

The sun only made the briefest of appearances during my walk on Sunday. I started at 9:30am and ended at 3pm and gray was my constant companion. As if I was room decorator trying to pick out drapes that matched a bedspread, I decided to start the morning off with a podcast that mirrored the somber mood of Mother Nature. I chose a Terry Gross interview with a teacher and poet who had lost her 21-year old daughter to a vicious murder. Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno has recently published a book of poems about her agonizing experience.

If you are a podcasting kind of person, you can download it here or on iTunes. Appropriately, the poem that affected me the most as I plodded along with rain dripping off the brim of my hat was one called "A Poem About Light". This was a poem she wrote for her daughter's memorial service, and then later read to the man convicted of her daughter's murder as her Victim Impact Statement during the sentencing phase of his trial. It said all she needed to say about that her daughter and that tragic day. And in a way, it says all that there really is to say about Light period. I want to share it with you here:

You can try to strangle light:
use your hands and think
you've found the throat of it,
but you haven't.
You could use a rope or a garrote
or a telephone cord,
but the light, amorphous, implacable,
will make a fool of you in the end.

You could make it your mission
to shut it out forever,
to crouch in the dark,
the blinds pulled tight—

still, in the morning,
a gleaming little ray will betray you, poking
its optimistic finger
through a corner of the blind,
and then more light,
clever, nervy, impossible,
spilling out from the crevices
warming the shade.

This is the stubborn sun,
choosing to rise,
like it did yesterday,
like it will tomorrow.
You have nothing to do with it.
The sun makes its own history;
light has its way.

- Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno

I took a nap after I finished my 15-mile walk. When I awoke, sun was shining through my bedroom window. It made me remember those last lines: The sun makes its own history; light has its way.

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