Friday, April 18, 2008

Sweet Yellow Spot

Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot;
others transform a yellow spot into the sun. (Pablo Picasso)

It's difficult to write about sunshine when you're not walking straight into it, your face up high, chin above the line of your shoulders, the warmth of it radiating against your forehead and cheeks, down along your jaw and across your exposed throat and neck. Difficult to explain how the light of it shines not only on you but in you as well, through every part of you, igniting those dim places we lock up and try not to think about. In the sun there's a temptation to throw open our inner doors, fling back the curtains and unlatch our windows until we can lean out. Way out. Far, until our hands and wrists are trembling under our own weight. Lean out, close our eyes and sing our secrets to the world, secrets which thrive in the dark and don't hold up under the glorious scrutiny of Spring daylight. Writing about sunshine is like trying to have sex through telegrams. Nothing said or written quite pulls it off. There are no words to describe the feeling of walking and walking and walking still, straight into it, pulled and not wanting to turn away from it. Sunshine lives, but as fluid as words and language can be, they do not. They are as stationary as stone. "Words," wrote Charles Frazier, "when they've been captured and imprisoned on paper, become a barrier against the world, one best left unerected." But still I write.

When Duncan and I walk the lake in the afternoons we head straight into the sun which hovers just above the mountains, but eventually we reach a point where we have to turn and when we do its light is on only one side of our face, bathing a single arm, a single leg, still beautiful but not whole. A piece of the sun, and a piece is not enough. A piece of sun of like a sip of orange juice, just enough to coat your lips and tantalize your tongue but not so much that you actually have to swallow. Just a hint of sweetness and flavor that leaves you wanting more, stretches your arms out and curls your fingers around the glass before you've even decided you want another drink.

Far too soon in our walk we reach another point where we turn our backs on the sun completely. No matter how hard we try we can't do it any other way. We could walk west and walk west some more, stumble through the scrub-brush and up the foothills, climb the mountain and come down the other side, but still we'd lose it. The sun is not meant to be walked straight into for long. And so we turn and even though we can't see it we know it's there. On our neck, the back of our legs. Pushing even as it pulls.

My love of the sun this evening was almost desperate. As the ghost moon appeared over the plains in the east, bone white and transparent along one side, like a charcoal sketch with the lines smudged over by a thumb, I thought how easy it is to look at the moon. It takes no effort whatsoever. We look at the moon on accident almost nightly. But the sun? The sun takes work. How many days or weeks or more has it been since you gazed right into it, big and whole above the horizon? We strain to look into it but turn our gaze instead on everything around and under it. Never it alone. So I looked at it, over my shoulder and only for a second, but enough to see the ball of it, the blaze around that ball. My eyes stung instantly and even now when I type I think I can see it, dancing before my fingers, floating in space between the walls and me. It'll pass and honestly, I don't mind.

I didn't settle for a sip. I ate the whole damn orange.

And so we walked home, Duncan and me, the moon our guide, early and dim, unable to cast a single shadow. So I looked at the ground, at the shapes leading us, two echoes of the sun pushing forward over the grass. A man and his dog. An afternoon of sweetness and near perfection.* Image courtesy of

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