writing light

I’ve been thinking a lot about light lately. Well, not light per se, but the quality of light and the tones that it casts, the way it impacts color and perception and mood…

I started noticing light in this way last summer while driving through Navarro River Redwoods State Park. I had just spent the weekend working on my novel at a self-made retreat on the Medocino Coast. I had been having a hard time trying to describe the way light plays through trees in a forest… the way its brightness changes the quality of green when it hits various forest plants like shrubs and seedlings. And then I drove right through the very quality of color and light I had been trying to write! It took my breath away. I tried taking a photo of it, but even the camera lens can’t entirely capture the intense and ethereal beauty.

How do you put into words something that can really only be seen? felt? intangibly experienced? I’m still struggling with this, even as I try to describe my struggle.

Ever since then, I have been struck by light: how it changes over the course of the day; how  cloud cover doesn’t always dictate what the light will look like as I’ve seen similar effects with heavy clouds and no clouds at all. So, does light have a mood of its own? Or is it all in how we perceive it ourselves? I wonder if anyone else sees light the way I’ve seen it…

Light can be gun-metal grey casting the world in a kind of bas relief, but it can also be platinum, which gives everything a high-def look. Sepia light makes the sky look brown and the environment old and tired. My favorite kind of light is probably the one that’s tinged with gold, even before the sun peeks over the eastern hills. Sometimes, that gold is accompanied by gun-metal (which often turns into sepia, which I find depressing), and sometimes by platinum. When the light is platinum-gold, everything I see looks like it belongs in a fantasy novel — not quite real, but not quite impossible, either.

I need new words to describe light. It can’t just be blazing or blinding; dim, dark, or white hot; it can’t just stream in or cast over or blow out. Yes, it does all those things. But it also does so much more.

I guess I’ll just have to be content with my struggle.


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