When I was thirteen, my daddy almost died. After that whenever I pointed out a sunset, he would glance towards it, shake his head in disappointment, and wander off whistling a tune about heaven. We always surmised that in the delirious depths of his cause-unknown trek through the valley of the shadow of death he caught a glimpse of heaven’s welcome sign. After that, everything on earth went gray.
I never succeeded in pointing out anything on earth that remotely resembled his heavenly encounter. Today as I look out my big windows across a bleached concrete pad of sky, I recall my daddy’s lack of interest in a sunset. I wonder is this how daddy saw sunsets?
After his heavenly encounter, Daddy’s choice for the next forty years was to give up paying attention to any sunfilled light show. The chasm was simply too great. Not having his experience, my choice is to press more deeply into earthly light in hopes of catching a glimpse of heavenly glory. For the time being, I’ll do this with my camera.
Photography is simply painting with light. As a long-time photographer and a short time light enthusiast, I now chase light with an almost evangelistic fervor. I’ve always loved sunshine, but for the past twelve months, I have plunged more deeply into the world of the fanatical light chaser. I walk the streets of my city in search of the reflected light so perfect for portraits. My soul feeds on sunrises and twilight. With my sweet husband in tow, I pursue alpenglow high in the northern Cascades while earlier on the same day, I drank the nectar of light filtering through great stands of deep cedar tucked away in remote, fern-strewn valleys.
Why am I telling you this? Because today’s sullen grayness did not greet the dawn. Expecting another shapeless day I gave no thought to pursuing sunrise. I didn’t even know exactly where I’d left my camera. Dressing in multiple layers and heading out early didn’t cross my mind. I huddled in my comfy polar-fleece bag with cuffs at neck, wrists, and ankles to keep out the draft, and I read. And then, almost intuitively I looked up from my cozy spot on the hearth to discover deep darkness giving way to a whisper of light.
I found my camera and watched brilliance unfold. I’m sharing this experience with you, because maybe like me, you have never seen heaven’s lights for yourself and haven’t been too keen on immersing yourself in the gentle shift of earthly light either. Maybe pursuing light has never been your forte. Perhaps you are not like photographers who prefer fall and winter light for it gentle undulations and fog-wrapped revelations.
Come with me on a journey into a new day. Let’s begin. It’s 8:24 AM PST. Click on any picture to enlarge it.
I detect a sunrise of some merit.
I turn toward the city of Everett. Providence Hospital towers above the city. I check to see if fog is rolling down the river. No fog. It would have been a very good day to stake out my tri-pod on top the parking garage. Oh well…
The lights of the city still twinkle. A house in my neighborhood catches the early ambient light.
I look to the east. At this point, I step out onto my front steps enraptured in the glorious coral swaths impregnated with lusty purples that band the morning sky.
I direct my lens further east catching the silhouette of neighboring trees almost ignited by what appears as a holocaust. The wind whips up off Port Gardner Bay and the sequoia next door lurches with frenzy engulfed in the torrid blur.
Turning back toward the city, I catch my breath. How do you capture glory? My soul cries out to savor heaven’s light-show for more than a fleeting moment.
To the north, Mt. Baker emerges from her slumber while city lights continue to define the buildings creeping down toward the harbor.
Over head the light dazzles me with piping hot sweet potato intensity. I want to be here, yet wish I were on top the Providence Hospital Parking garage with a full view of the Cascade range.
So what that there is no elegant landscape to capture beneath this fiery sky. So what that I cannot capture the mountains in silhouette. I will take what I have and aim my camera up, up, up toward heaven’s glory as if aimed directly into a glass-blower’s kiln.
Then back to the city, the light becomes brighter, yet deeper. Jewel tones implore me to cross the threshold into saturated color.
Pinky brilliance fades into denim blues and ribbons of yellow. A hint of robin’s egg blue flirts with me from over the Cascades. I notice which house in my neighborhood catches the first rays.
Like a seductress, the light apprehends the leafless alders, spotlighting a tug in the bay and illuminating the beach houses across the water.
I watch color dilute into gentle apricot illuminating Providence Hospital’s glistening Colby campus while a streak of white on the water announces a small boat approaching the harbor.
From my window, I continue to chase the light and catch it. Like an adept hair stylist, it foils the alders with gold.
The bare-shouldered sun slips into heavy gray wraps. Apricot skies content themselves with a moment’s glory basking above blue mountains and logged fields laden with snow.
And finally, Mt. Baker–what a photogenic stunner she is!–defies the clouds and basks in the weak December sun. What time is it? 9:58 AM PST.
And now another three hours later, I sit beneath heavy skies and write about my morning. Off to the west I notice a twinge of light as the weak sun slips closer into what will be a generally unnoticed sunset. I had never monitored the movement of light like I have this day.
As I edit this piece, I listen and I look. The day has grown darker. The city is a muddle of gray barely indistinguishable from the bay. The wind whips the once gold-foiled alders and the rains strike my skylight with a steady beat. The city returns; the sky lightens.
And even amidst this Northwest December day, I am full of wonder.
I wonder if I crave light so much because there are days like today where an hour and a half of light is hedged in with so much grayness that it roots out the memories of my beloved daddy and the disappointing sunsets.
I wonder if I crave light because it portends heavenly revelation. I am reminded of the elderly St. John, a prisoner on an isolated island, who beheld a revelation of light during a heavenly vision. I find myself drawn to the passage he later wrote in the Gospel of John that records the words of the One who came from heaven’s splendor to walk this dusty, gray earth. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
I wonder what light infused street my daddy is walking along as he whistles today. For daddy, it is not just another graying sunless day following another starless night. It is not a final trip to the Providence Hospital ER. He is fully alive in an eternal day where there are no concrete gray streets or asphalt skies or unyielding hospital beds. I imagine him on streets of golden light so intense that it would burn through my earthly eyes and obliterate the light sensor in my DSLR camera. I imagine him celebrating hand in hand with the author of life reveling in the Presence of the One who leads from glory to glory.
I recall my daddy’s parting words to the nurse who assisted turning him in bed.
He whispered, “Do you know Jesus? I want to meet you in heaven someday.”
She shook her head, gently turned him, and watched him slip off…to a city that bedazzled him with light!
I’m a light chaser.
I wonder, Are you one too?
Marlee Huber ~ for Your Flourishing Life!