Thursday, January 11, 2024

lights in the winter darkness

Driving along the river road toward town around 7:15am, still very dark.

Houses lit up in various manners.
Children carried by fathers from the dark outside into the entryway of the brightly lit daycare rooms.
A runner with a headlamp and reflective jacket jogging alongside his dog who attached to the leash remained hidden in the dark keeping pace.
So many outside lights: lampposts, landscape lighting, porch lights, floodlights, holiday lights.
So many vehicle lights: white, orange, yellow and red in varying stages of blinking, winking and steady
A walker, backpack bulging, coffee thermos in one hand, phone with narrow flashlight bobbing walking on the roadway against traffic as the sidewalks were patchy with black ice and frosted crystals.
Later on the same sidewalk, two walkers, one pausing in stride while one arm gripped by her more confident companion, then resuming a compatible stride on an uncertain walkway.
More lights now on docked sailboats, tall rigging lines lit up next to smaller sailboats bobbing in their berths. Looking across the dark water to the peninsula where red lights blink on a tall tower and white lights glow steady on a second tower. 
Across the inlet, house lights dot the darkness where the neighborhood juts out into the river like a thick rounded fist.
Now the railroad appears and a pavilioned park's silhouette against the river water shows in the darkness if you know where to look. as you go past. The steel sides of a railroad bridge crosses like an overpass a deep road that steeply drops over the river bank and down toward the marina, lighthouse and park, but also towards the woods where a Catholic retreat entranceway is marked by two stone obleisks whose smooth sides reflect any available light. A large pickup truck emerges from a strange angled road crossing the train tracks, waiting at a stop sign to join the three or four vehicles already on the road.
Another walker with dark winter coat, dark winter hat and no light in hand or head walks briskly on a cleared sidewalk at a three-way intersection. 
The best lights of all come from inside the houses. Pendant lamps in kitchens, string lights around doorways, lamps in living rooms, overhead lights in bedrooms and hallways. Most are gorgeous light-shedding ambiance-givers. A few are harsh overbright lights that seem to gash out into the darkness with their stabby glare as if angry to have to be awake before the great light rises. Mentally switching them off and looking away to the kinder light, seeing the cozy through the large paned windows. 
People curious to look in as they pass by, drawn by the light like moths, yet unlike animals, seeing and understanding what others are doing in this early dark morning. There is no mystery to these lights: it's people doing what people do, bringing lights wherever they are to see and to be seen. 

In all this light, we see one another, not as friends greeting one another with names, but as fellow citizens, greeting this dark morning with light and movement as we live together in a world we did not create nor can we control no matter how finely tuned we make our instruments. 

Yet we are not troubled by this dependency; we fit comfortably into the dark morning, each working through their own schedule and routine, but easily slipping into each other's routine, giving room to each in turn and seeing life and valuing it as something to be protected and shared. 

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