Archipelagoes wake up
Chasing California sunlight
It is painful to think of the beauty of the California sunlight.
For years I observed the light reflected on buildings and roads or the ocean in L.A. It was bright, dusty, and it made most of us humans a little bit more beautiful. The shadows were shorter and we were all on some kind of stage, always performing, always observed. That was all.
Then, I began hiking in the Santa Monica mountains. I watched the yellow dry grass and brushes turn bright green in the spring and smelled the creosote and sage - and wished to bottle it as a perfume. The June gloom glided through branches and tree tops up there, above the Pacific. And the light, always revealing - always revealing but not explaining. I breathed it in, trying to fuel up as if it was gas for the soul. I knew it mattered, but I did not understand it.
Years later, now in Northern California, I walked in the golden oak strewn meadows and saw it. The light. You see, you need to look at the light through something. Not bare. Not pure. Not reflected. Light has to send its wavelengths through matter and then you witness it. What you witness then, is called beauty.
I spent five years attempting to document it, the beauty of light, as I saw it in California. Many of my attempts are clearly failures. But you might notice something there, in the margins, or in the strands of grass - where the light communicates. Because that is what I somehow believe. Sometimes it shows itself as a circle in a shadow, or behind a hill and begins to look the way we as children drew hills with a sun behind it.
I became obsessed with trying to capture something beyond the light. Perhaps a message, a sign of something grander. I was sure that what I saw was beauty and that it was important. It was, like Milosz wrote [see below], as if archipelagoes had woken up shaking copper from their hair — I could not un-see it, and it became a paradigm shift for me and how I observe nature.
That is why it’s so painful. Because I fear I will never see such beauty here on Earth again. Here are some of the photos. I fear, well not really but you know - this post is mostly going to feel to you as when a friend shows you their vacation photos. A slight annoyed feeling of polite obligation to scroll through them. That is totally acceptable. My prediction is that perhaps one person of all who reads this will think “I too do this!” And if that person is you — isn’t it grand? That thing we see?
This is, after all, a cabinet of curiosities. You do not arrive here to find predictable things.
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I’ll end with another kind of beauty. A poem by Czeslaw Milosz that I stumbled upon the other day.
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