observation the second

The second in a series of writings on the observational sessions I am conducting for CAMS 270: Nonfiction.

I wanted to observe light last night.

Walking towards the Weitz, I saw the isolated domes of the stained glass windows of the church across the street, lit from within.  It was a sweet little surprise, to see these geometric patches of bright color seeming to hang in space, in the supposed-darkness.  I went to stand before one of them, in order to contemplate color, but as soon as a came to pause before it in the middle of the street, the light from within was extinguished.  The colors quickly changed into darker grey interpretations of themselves, and the all that was left was the skeleton of iron between the panes, and a retinal afterburn of something.

I was surprised that though I had been looking at these colors moments before, I could suddenly remember nothing of where any given ‘color’ had been in the whole brilliantly lit array — had this triangle bit been orange?  Was there even much blue in the whole pattern?  I wondered then, had I been looking at the colors themselves, or the window as a whole?  I thought I had been taking in the window, drinking it in with my vision as I approached, but perhaps I had not been fully.  If we ‘see’ a thing, and then it changes unexpectedly before our eyes, how do we continue to see it?  We think it is the same thing, in some external sense, a window that I could run forward and tap on, or stoop to take a rock and shatter that glass, but it is not the same in my eyes.  Nor in my brain, for that matter, as I struggled to reconcile my just-forming perception of the colored window with the ensuing darkness.

I turned away soon after; I wonder why.  We are drawn like moths to light, and are startled and saddened when it leaves us.  But I could still see the window; awake, we are never quite without light, even when we close our eyes, and when we dream our minds create an inner light of memory to play across our eyelids.  So there was something there to see, still — and perhaps to find beauty or form in these darker places is just as important, if not as easy, just so or more so rewarding.  Perhaps I should return tonight, and find the light in stained glass gone dark.

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