Light memory

Traffic lights dot vertically, pulsing color against a burnished grey sky backlit by the first sun of the day. Faux-Victorian streetlamps still round their glow outwards, while headlights press into the new day’s emerging light. Windshields, windows, storefronts, puddles, slicks of oil or tar, smooth surfaces of poles and posts, metal of all kinds in unpredictable places — all mirror, and, as they do, reduce yet somehow amplify the dawn sky and our human contributions to it. The sun first thing in the morning gives all these little lights a precise place, and they all simultaneously stand out and blend together, like instruments in a virtuosic ensemble. Today the horizon is sky and buildings of a small midwestern city. A few days ago the morning light was no less stunning but it was all sun: spreading and arcing and flowing across the corn stubble, catching the dried leaves of bushes and trees and the stripe of road that led straight through it all, clouds almost an afterthought, but the few there were pushed downwards some of the stray light that had escaped earth’s gravity. It’s maybe what I love most about these short days of late fall, that I get to see these moments of cusp early in the day when the sun is tamed a little by the angle of the planet, plants dead and dormant catch some of the warmth lost during the night and show it to anyone paying attention, and the bulbs and surfaces we’ve made in our attempt to throw the sun back at itself sit comfortably at least for a time with the light that will always outshine them. A picture would be natural here, I suppose, but I didn’t take one. I didn’t want to frame the scenes as I was in them. Words, memory, will have to do.


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