Dimming The Ground Lights
A few years ago – at this same time of the year, my husband and I went out rather late at night to relax in the hot tub. We went out through the garage, and our path to the patio was well-lit by the motion-detector light that was activated when we opened the garage door.
We were enjoying the contrast of warm water and the cool night air. The night was beautiful and quiet. And because we were so still in the shadow of the garage, the motion detector shut off the light.
We were in pitch darkness. Until we weren’t.
Our eyes adjusted to the darkness. The backyard and the woods around us lit up.
They were everywhere. Hundreds. Twinkling in the blackness.
It was breathtaking.
And if the light had stayed on, we never would have seen it.
I’m reminded of this fortunate spectacle today, because tonight is dark and quiet and as I walked the dog, I heard the coyotes in the distance.
And I’m aware of how much we miss because of the ground lights.
We are overwhelmed with stimuli.
Lights. Sounds. Too much video. Too much audio.
And they overpower the simple things that touch the heart.
So I am contemplating a few of the singular things that have awed me when I have turned down the volume, turned off the lights, and payed attention.
* When I was a little girl, I remember a day at the beach where I found myself lying all alone on the blanket. All the noises of the other kids playing seemed to fade away as the feeling on the sun on my skin became the only sensation in my body. I became aware of how my brain was connected to each spot on my skin. I could think about my right collarbone for example, or my left shin, and I could feel the hot sun on the exact spot I thought about. I was totally amazed at how precisely I could single out each cell of my skin. I think it was the first – but not the last – time I realized how miraculous my brain is. (I still do that when I am lying in the sun – it’s ecstasy.)
* For me, one of the pleasures in a restaurant – (and please, please, give me a quiet restaurant) – is the simple luxury of a soft cloth napkin on my lap. The touch of it to my lips. And the crazy thing is – it’s so easy to do this at home too. Why in the world do I eat every meal at home with a paper napkin by my side? This is my new half-year resolution: real napkins. A blissful small kindness to my face. (And less waste.)
* The very concept of an orchestra is a marvel. What a genius a composer must be to take all those instruments and make them come together in such powerful harmony. Like taking chaos and creating world peace. But what moves me more – what enchants my soul – is the single instrument. Quiet down, all you resounding symphonies! Give me the lone clarinet in the early morning. The melancholy cello as the sun goes down. I am a soloist at heart.
* Today I paid my weekly visit to my mother. As usual, I did her laundry while I was there. As I was putting her things in the washer down in her cellar, I could hear her footsteps above me. Is there a sweeter sound in a quiet house than hearing the footsteps of someone you love? And what pleasure I find in folding her still-warm clothes. I love smoothing her shirts and nightgowns and towels – touching the items she touched and will touch again tomorrow.
* The whole world should stop when a baby laughs. And that smile! Did you ever notice that babies smile with their mouths wide open? Their openness is the full measure of their joy. But mostly when adults smile, we just turn up the corners of our closed mouths. How many years did it take us to learn to temper our joy?
I am going out now to turn out the lights and wait for the fireflies.