Posts Tagged ‘sun’

Artificial Light

12 May 2011

Dear J-

We already are getting into the sunrise hours on the morning commute — yesterday the marine layer held off overnight so I was treated to the sun full in my face as we made the last few turns into work. Before the Daylight Savings jump, in fact, we were getting that early commute sunrise — the sun making you blink a bit in surprise and warming your lips and eyelashes from its 93-million mile perch. I find it helps me walk in to work ready to face the remainder of the day, free from the nagging doubt that, walking in under the cover of night, your body suspects that it should still be horizontal and gently snoring.

The construct of artificial light — let’s make that distinct into electric light, which has soon become ubiquitous — means that darkness can now be productive time. If I was still keeping up a daily journal in a spiral-bound notebook, for instance, there would be no way I could write in the dark like this. We have molded our lives to fit various goals — financial or professional — by forcing our world to keep up through extending days into nights, consuming ever more time and energy just covering our world with streetlights and lamps. Yet when I get in and the sun has risen those streetlights are revealed as frauds, their light drowned in the ocean pouring from the sky.

Perhaps my favorite part of IKEA is the lamps and lighting department. I take particular delight in seeing the new designs, as a god lamp will not only provide illumination but also shape the light in some interesting way — if all you saw was the bare bulb the artificial lights would be harsh and unyielding. There is a certain volume quality to light — if you’ve ever watched the full moon slip behind thin clouds you know what I mean– I can’t help nut wonder at the captured photons setting their world alight. The sun is nearly up again and that means the closing of the quiet dark, ready for the battles of today.



Sun and Rain

18 January 2010

Dear J-

At one point this afternoon the rains came down like a refund from the heavens: here, you forgot this; maybe you can use it later. Pelting down from dark clouds, sheets walking across the roof, tympanic beats marking the passage of the day with punctuated motion. Here, on. Off. Abruptly the water shuts off, swallowed into the desert floor and spirited away to secret thirsty roots ready to awaken again as the world turns moist again, soggy and shining by turns.

After all, it’s magic when the clouds grow thin as the sun goes down; the world is cast into a kind of golden twilight glow for twenty minutes. The glow hits everything right; it doesn’t matter what the freeway reveals, the grit and castoff splash glitter alike under heaven’s glow. You’d swear that the sparks were flying straight in your eyes, you’d swear that we were all luminous beings under the garish show above. All the trinkets and dreams shower down in equal measure.

The further we get from perfect — the longer you spend outside the kingdom — the more these Maxfield Parrish moments make sense. You know that the light can be that wonderful and as a photographer you scout locations with the idea that you’ll return at the moment where the dying light intersects the forms and shapes just right. It’s trite to talk about sunsets as photographic fodder (kittens and kids, too, though I have been guilty of those, even multiple offenses), but coming after the rains today, I appreciate the light streaming down reminding me I’m alive.


Sunny Days

2 January 2010

Dear J-

Some days aren’t all that memorable — yesterday, for instance, I’m not sure that without looking back at pictures I’ll be able to say where we went for the first day of 2010, whereas I’d always be able to tell you that we went to Coronado on 1 Jan 2009 (instead of the Pacific side of the island, we walked on the bay side, which I thought was pretty incredible, but Coronado’s always an inspiring/aspiring place to visit). I was having a hard time this afternoon trying to remember where we went for lunch yesterday, as we tried three different restaurants before we found one open for the holiday. There’s nothing wrong with Torrey Pines; it may just be the combination of where and when.

Today with the omnipresent threat of work hanging over my head (I get the shaft late shift this weekend) we had an abbreviated day, bouncing to the park and back in time for a little lunch and a little fun; while in Balboa Park we ran into a greyhound group, where owners congregate with their gregarious, gangly dogs. As it turns out I’m nearly positive (there are only so many greyhounds in the neighborhood) that we ran into one of our neighbors there as a bonus — if you see people you know (or think you know) outside of the usual setting it sparks all kinds of odd feelings of deja vu.

It echoes my past, where I’d spend all summer moping around without being able to see the usual crew of kids (distance, time, and schedule mean as low a dose of the school chums as possible, exacerbated by a lack of motorized transport) and the one or two times I’d unexpectedly run across them would resonate in my mind for weeks afterwards. We went this time with the intent of making a strike on the Model Railroad museum and I end up thinking of that summer before junior high and running into Jennifer Franks at the B.Dalton; funny, the connections our minds make for us some days, right?


Perfect Light

23 September 2009

Dear J-

The morning dawned full of fog; the world, wrapped in a thick muslin sheet sliding by outside my window, brightening by degrees but still muffled, shifting and roiling in a mysterious boil all the way to work.  I like exploring in fog; everything becomes more intimate and closed-in as vision shuts down, and you realize how much we rely on our eyes to tell us about the world.  We fumble our way through the fog, then; for as much as we believe we control, nature has a way of humbling our pride in mere moments.

I spent the day in a sort of mental fog, really; in the corner, at an unfamiliar station and unreachable by phone or e-mail.  Head down, pedal down, pushing it, uninterrupted.  Is it strange that isolation is both a luxury and a punishment?  We struggle to get our own cubicles, hoping to graduate to a (*gasp*) hard-wall office.  WITH A DOOR.  And yet we throw prisoners into solitary confinement when they do something wrong.  I’m not convinced that I’m meant to work alone all the time; it’s interesting to try it out but in the vast anechoic chamber of your mind, your lone voice has a tendency to get swallowed up by the void.

I left that terrible corner and walked out into the dry heat of a southern California fall; the sun had come and banished the fog while I was stuck inside.  I walked the short walk back to my regular desk, returning to the insistent phone and needy e-mail whispering for just a bit more time, but the sun had recharged me sufficiently; I tidied up the loose ends from the morning and set things right for tomorrow’s particular set of madness.


Sleep, baby, sleep
now that the night is over
and the sun comes
(like a god)
into our room,
all per-fect light and promises.

— INXS, New Sensation

Cloud Kiss

1 June 2009

Dear J-

I like seeing the clouds kiss the hills; it reminds me of mountain passes I’ve been through, where you can physically touch the crisp air.  We used to make the drive from Spokane to Seattle what seemed like once a month towards the tail end of high school (it was cheaper than paying freight on the specialized groceries, which required a dedicated truck); it was always thrilling to rise up out of the desert into the thick trees and moisture of the Cascades.

Here in California, the closest we come to it is heading north out of Los Angeles past Santa Clarita and Magic Mountain; we’ve always had sufficiently underpowered cars that we take things at a leisurely pace, winding up into the sky.  I prefer the sheer drama of the two places we’ve tackled the Rockies — Glacier-Waterton and Banff-Jasper.  Those are some serious mountains, and with any luck, we’ll be able to see them again in our new nuclear family unit.  If I remember right, it’s been at leasr four years since our last trip to a National Park (Yosemite), which I found remarkable for its contrasts (temperature drop was something like 60F from valley floor to valley rim in a bare thirty-minute drive) and seclusion (still miles from the closest airport).

Though it’s been mostly overcast all day, the sun is starting to drive the last stragglers of mist off the hillsides they’re stubbornly clinging to.  My skin tells me there’s still a lot of unrequited moisture in the air waiting to brew something wicked further east, in the mountains and deserts.  There beneath the still-glowering clouds random shafts of sunlight punctuate the landscape with searchlight doggedness; there we speed, away from the control the sea seeks to extend.


Island Mind

14 July 2008

Dear J-

I’ve had Hawaii on the brain for the last couple of days and I think I finally understand why:  we got married in 2000 and promptly ran off to Maui; in 2004 we’d had enough of not having real vacations, so we went to Kauai.  Yet this year, nothing; we’d rather not subject figgy to the sensation of spending five hours strapped to a seat when she’s just getting up and mobile.

Hawaii’s significant to me as the first place we took an extended trip together without the schedule-planning influence of older folks or school or fitting in around someone else’s desires; we went with no plans other than having a car and a place to stay and no to-do checklist.  Back up for a moment, now, to 1981 and somewhere between Calgary and Banff.  There’s four adults and four kids crammed into a car that’s designed for six, a contemporary Ford Fairmont, and we’ve got an itinerary.  Must see.  Lake Louise, Vermillion Lakes, glaciers, Continental Divide.  I remember several things from the trip, but the opalescent jade glacier-melt lakes were not among them, instead, sneaking way too many people into a single room, being jammed up next to grandma for hours at a time, and the feeling of being on the road.  Forever.

When we went to Kauai four years later there was even less planned out, but the moments we had still sparkle in comparison:  I remember getting up what felt like insanely early thanks to still being adjusted to mainland time and getting out to the trail at the Na Pali shore just after sunrise and hiking that rugged path without seeing another human for what felt like hours.  Afternoons, we’d hit up a rental shop and find someplace to snorkel (the Tunnels near Hanalei being a particularly nice spot).  It’s not to say that I wouldn’t enjoy traveling with my parents, but  I think I might be too spoiled to.

It was less about the place and more about reveling in freedom — no schedule, no pressures, just finding something to bum around with for a few hours and then back to the hotel, back into the water, swimming every afternoon and knowing the biggest decision of the day was coordinating all the meals together to avoid eating the same thing twice.  Yeah, we can handle a shift in schedule.  We’ll pencil that in around the snorkeling and napping.

Yesterday we’re slathering on sunscreen and preparing to head down to Mission Bay.  Sun.  Sand.  Warm water, palm trees, shoreline gently sloping into the water, public-access parking and I look at the odometer:  only five miles from home, only five miles to that Hawaii state of mind.  We’ll be back, I promise.


Wear Sunscreen

15 June 2008

Dear J-

I got my first significant sunburn at 13 or 14 after spending a week in the sun, sans sunscreen, at Lake Roosevelt, which formed behind Grand Coulee Dam once that mass of concrete was completed.  Before that, we honestly didn’t spend enough time outside (for the most part, it took roughly four or five days of sun-up to sun-set to induce that first burn).  That was one of the advantages of growing up Chinese in a 95% Caucasian zip code, J-; while it felt like we all spent that first week in September judging each others’ hard-earned summer tans, I could always throw my hat in that ring without too many worries, as it was nearly impossible to not get tan in the normal course of my summers.  And of course we had the PE teacher in junior high who regularly cured herself to the brink of leather; the kids who were lucky enough to escape someplace warm over Christmas break, coming back as cocoa marvels amongst the rest of us snow-pallor folks.

Now we live in a place saturated with sun and tans and it’s all we can do to stir outside without slathering on the UV-blocking lotions; I’ve learned more about the damaging properties of the sun’s rays since being told over and over what a healthy tan meant.  Every bit of exposure means damage; I see my boss going in to see his dermatologist regularly, coming back with ever more pieces of his flesh excised to strike out precancerous lesions.  It’s only taken thirty years, but I’m starting to get the message:  all sun exposure is a risk now.  Wear your sunscreen out there; we’ll argue the merits of helioplex and other mystery ingredients later.