For Thursday, March 24, 2016:
“When all things are equal, translucence in writing is more effective than transparency, just as glow is more revealing than glare.”
James Thurber – The New Yorker, 1959
“What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.”
Logan Pearsall Smith – ‘All Trivia,’ AFTERTHOUGHTS, 1931
There’s a reason photographers prefer early morning and late afternoon to get the best images: the natural light is the most beautiful then. The shadows are softer and longer. It’s almost as though they whisper through the trees and along the grasses. The bright sunlight of mid-day, however, gives the photographer no shadows, only glare.
The translucent glow of whispering shadows reveals things we can’t see at mid-day: tiny insects or the tips of flowers and leaves are backlighted into view in the afternoon sun, dewdrops on spider webs and grass seeds are picked out in the light of morning. One of the prettiest sights I’ve seen was when I happened to be in the woods in late afternoon in late summer. I looked down at just the right time, it seems, for a shaft of the westering sun landed just above my feet onto a tableau of three slugs on a toadstool or mushroom.
That doesn’t sound terribly pretty, does it? Normally I am not a fan of slugs AT all, but this sight stopped me in my tracks. For a few moments, I felt as if I was in a scene wrapped in warm amber. The stripes of the sturdy fungus blended with the speckles of the slugs (who knew slugs had speckles?) in fragile hues of tangerine and gold and silver as ephemeral mites of woods dust sparkled around us, down on us, in the gentle breeze.
My description can’t begin to do justice to what I saw that day. I hurried back to the house to grab my camera, but by then the light was wrong and the result was the usual image of three dull, slimy slugs on a pale orange-topped ‘shroom. So different from the glow I happened on, the glow I felt all around.
For those few moments I saw slugs in, literally, a different light. I saw a woodland fungus in its glory. The two together were luminous. There was no glare to distract me, to blind me. Nothing shouted out, ‘Look down here – see how gorgeous we are!’ Still I was able to see beneath the surface of the commonplace to find the beauty, and I felt like I was transported to another world.
What a gift those few moments were! There are times, of course, when vibrancy is welcome, but ever since that encounter with the slugs, I’ve wondered how many momentary treasures I’ve missed because the glare was too bright, too noisy.