I didn’t see the beauty of light and shadow on walls and floors until Laura Brown, a fellow blogger, started posting pictures where she captured light and shadows in her home. Her pictures exclaimed, “Look here. See this.” And I saw. Like all good artists, she showed me how to see the world in ways I hadn’t noticed before.
I started taking pictures when I saw light in our home and saw something ordinary and beautiful. I posted a few in the comments section as a response to her call.
Without her pictures, I wouldn’t have seen light flash through a room that is normally dark except for mornings, when the eastbound windows catch the rising sun. It burned a bright triangle, glowing, almost like a geometric vision of God. The other day I was walking the dogs and the sun crested the horizon throwing all three of us in shadow along the fence line. I reached for my phone, but I’d left it back at the house.
The sun rise caught our chandelier shadow on the opposite wall, the curves, somehow more beautiful as shadow than as bronze. I’ve seen light beam through our barn, catching dust, and aiming one cameo of light on a post. And the light glowing through a crack in the wood from one room to the other with a door open and the sun dropping orange light to the horizon.
When we moved in, the former owners told us about the beautiful sunrises and sunsets, so we were warned to watch for beauty, but not for these rays of light brimming through our windows.
Ever since we moved here I have felt the house like a horse, stiff legged, on the verge of bucking like we had no place here. My stuff doesn’t fit. My bookshelves stand like old trees around the house where they fit against the walls in the pocket door room, stove room and office. On Beacon Drive, I could cram them into my office, a tiny bedroom and shut the door against my horse collection, books and papers, but here, they hang out for guests to see, and it feels like underwear whipped around the clothesline.
The place isn’t haunted and I’m not psychic, but I have felt something here, vaguer than ghosts. There are rooms I don’t care to work in like my office with those east-bound windows that turn dark as the sun wheels overhead, and the shed, the garage room, our basement.
I admitted to a psychologist that I have a dickens of a time finding focus enough to write, that I didn’t know if it was an irritated house, or some environmental poison like radon. She shrugged, not denying my experience. I’ve already asked our pastor to bless the house but have waited until I filled in the gaps left by books I’ve given away. These days our house looks like we just moved in, boxes and tack scattered.
I think about these beams of light and shadows that I first saw in Laura’s pictures, how they settle into our home pushing back the darkness like dust rags, showing me that light does settle here. I think about Jesus being the light of the world and how maybe there’s power in physical light to heal.
I have suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder, feeling so vaguely rotten, I wanted to curl up and die. When I sat in front of a light box, for hours, while writing, I could feel my spirit lift, like that saying, “Lift up your hearts, We lift them up to the Lord,” our pastor speaks before communion. And the sunlight that throws up shadows on the wall, that makes them glow, might just be airing out this house, or in the very least letting me know that it is here, that little dashes of beauty show up even in a house, that remind me of Jesus as light of the world, of the saying that the times are dark, the night is coming, but, no, that’s not what it says, even though it feels like the night is falling fast on the West, it says that salvation is nearer than we think, that we are to wake up and put on the armor of light, and behave decently, with restraint.
Those dashes of light just might be pushing back the our house’s irritation because we aren’t the people who lived here before us, who left things pretty much the same, the floors painted ugly brown, the foundation in one room laid over dirt, the stairs steep, plaster bulging, haunted. Maybe old houses don’t like change much. Maybe we owe the place an apology for the sledge hammers laid to a few walls, the stair case opened up, made safe and lovely, the old cabinets replaced with new ones, the loss for the house like replacing teeth with dentures.
All I know is that light finding its way into our house, my noticing it, has eased the stiffness, made our house feel more like home. I know that like Mr. Rogers saying to look for the helpers, maybe we can look for light, literal light and shadow, and find some kind of life or hope or a little relaxing.
People talk about the magic of the universe, how it longs to help us. In Isaiah God says how he longs to bless His people. My first mentor in writing, Bruce Proctor sent me a book while I was wrestling with this post: How the Light Gets In.