Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Searching for Bright Light

Maples in my courtyard with blue sky, as I finish this post.
I often relate to the title of my blog, "searching for bright light." This morning, most of the neighborhood where I live was bathed in luscious autumn golden sunshine, but my particular block was enshrouded in the thickest of gray fog.

As we move to the time of year when sunrise occurs here long after the alarm rings, I become disheartened.  I have a craving for strong sunlight; I need its warmth and benevolence on my face. Is it just photophilia, an enjoyment and appreciation for brightness, or is there a deeper basis for my need?

When the 33 miners emerged from the Chilean mine in which they were entombed for 69 days, the world cheered not just their liberation from claustrophobic encasement. After all, the men had the run of long tunnels; Edison Pena, a triathlete, jogged 6 miles daily there for exercise.  The men's emergence, in sunglasses to guard their eyes from overexposure, symbolized the transition from despair to hope, from deathly interment to the nurturing sunlight of freedom.  Many said it was a rebirth, a complete emotional and spiritual overhaul, not just because they avoided death but because they emerged to the "brilliance" of insight.

Was it coincidence that yesterday I was reading Proverbs 4:18: "The path of the righteous is like the glow of sunlight, growing brighter until high noon, but the way of the wicked is like darkness, they know not upon what they stumble."  I'd been searching for a different reference, but that verse leaped out.

As Jews, we are to greet the day with boundless enthusiasm, opening our eyes with "modeh ani, lifanecha, melech chai vikayam...," Hebrew for "I thank You, right here before You, living King forever!"  The blessing continues to express gratitude for the faithfulness with which God gives us another day, another chance.

My enthusiasm takes a hit when I have to arise in total darkness.  And my mood sags in overcast and rain.  Seasonal affective disorder--depression from lack of sunshine--is so rampant here in the Northwest that soon after I moved here, I went to a busy store called "The Indoor Sun Shoppe" and bought the bright sun-simulator that sits about a foot away from me here on my desk. A friend gave me an alarm clock with a lamp that gradually brightens in the hour before the set time.

Happiness and insight metaphors always correspond to sunshine and light. "Never saw the sun shining so bright, never saw things going so right," are lyrics of a song two of my kids frequently sing, called, 'natch, "Blue Skies."  The Beatles' "Good Day, Sunshine" begins, "I need to laugh, and when the sun is out, I've got something I can laugh about."  The classic "You Are my Sunshine" croons, "You make me happy when skies are gray...please don't take my sunshine away!"

Do you ever see catalogs like Crate and Barrel or Pottery Barn showing furniture vignettes without sunlight pouring in?  And the pinnacle of God's Ten Plagues was to inflict on the Egyptians isolating, penetrating darkness.  Sunshine=good. Darkness=bad.  The Lone Ranger wore a white hat and rode a white horse, despite the constant dust and dirt of the trail (which is probablyhow his outfit got gray).  Darth Vader just couldn't be so evil dressed in pastels.  And if you ever saw the delightful film "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit" (1998) you'll remember that when each of the five lovable schlubs who jointly bought the completely white ensemble puts it on, he's transformed into a better, more elegant, more respectable man.  The power of light to bring out the good.

Well, as I've written about my yearning for sunshine, the fog has dissipated and a cerulean sky contrasts with the red and orange maple in my courtyard.  'Scuse me as I step onto the patio for some life-giving Vitamin D and inspiration.


  1. This year I've been waking up at six every day because I'm doing field work, and it really depresses me that as dark as it is at that hour of the morning now, it's not going to get any lighter! Especially since we haven't even changed the clock yet. :-/

    I miss waking up to sunshine!

  2. Interesting what you mention about the transformation that took place when the characters in that movie put on all white clothing. I recently dressed in an all-white outfit and ran my weekly errands and I was astonished at how I was treated. More people smiled and were friendly with me than usual. Things were just plain different when I wore white. It blew me away.

  3. So let me patiently explain the reason for your seeking those precious rays: so you can recharge your own energy that you so generously share with others, dear Bright! Every day in so many ways, you radiate joy and shine your high beams of happiness on so many of us; and in those infrequent times of darkness and shadow, you dial down your light to a comforting warmth that surrounds and nurtures us. We are fortunate to bask in your love and caring kindness; may all that light and more reflect back to you; and when clouds gather outside, just put your snazzy sunglasses on and go visit yourself in your mirror - or call me and I'll bounce your bright right back atcha!

  4. Erachet, yes, I too find it depressing to think darkness is encroaching more each day, and doesn't peak until the winter solstice...

    Kim, I'm fascinated by your experience. I'm going to try it and see if I replicate the all-white cheer you generated.

    Double: awwww, shucks. Takes one to know one!

    Your comments on my blog brightened my day (see, there's that term in action)!