New Light

The summer of 1992. I was truck camping in the desert. I had just visited Canyon De Chelly, and was in the midst of the Three Mesa area of the Navaho and Hopi Tribal lands in north eastern Arizona, an area with significant magic. I had stopped for the night in a remote area away from all man-made light. I experienced for the first time the “dome” of the sky at night. Ever since that time I have dreamed of seeing it on the ocean, away from the land, in the darkness provided only be being in a small boat out of sight of land. When I was in Mexico a few months ago I attempted to arrange a boat ride out with the local fishermen, as they often go out in the middle of the night and fish till morning. I was unsuccessful, as the English speaking man who told me he could arrange it ultimately could not.  Also of late, I have been reading some articles about the navigation techniques of the Polynesians who settled the South Pacific islands, and who steered sans compass, sextant, or chronometer. It is surmised that they steered by the stars. I have been offered a chance to possibly experience these things myself, not once, but for many days.

I have met a man, a sailor man, who is planning on taking his 26ft. boat around the world, taking 3 years to do it. The person who he was planning it with just backed out. He offered me the berth, contingent on a number of things, of course. The first being if we would like each other enough to spend that much time in that small a space. I am told the rule of thumb is that circumnavigators spend 10% of their time sailing and 90% of it in port. Also, each person takes an alternating “watch” and mans the tiller while underway, while the other person rests in the cabin, so actual facetime is less then what it might seem. After not very careful consideration I have decided to take the necessary steps to pursue this possibility. One of the main attractions has to do, as most things do for me, with the fascinating natural light conditions I would be witness to, including starlight.

I was reminded of this when I read a recent blog post by Lori Carson, in which she includes a few paragraphs from her forthcoming new novel. In those paragraphs the character, an art teacher, is directing his students to the late afternoon light, which, along with the morning light is often referred to by painters and photographers as the “magic” hour, when the light has substance and character. We all know it, but usually in limited quantities. One of my most favorite things about living in the mountains of Colorado for 40 years was that I used to come out of my cabin quite often at that time solely to experience it. The alpenglow experience defined much of my own work for the stage. Now I no longer light for the stage, but my fascination with light has only increased as I find myself spending the majority of my time out of doors. So a trip like such as is proposed has many appealing aspects, but to experience light in new ways certainly is at the top of the list of reasons for going.

Author: RJMS

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