There’s a Certain Slant of Light

There’s a Slant of Light

There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything,
‘Tis the seal, despair,-
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, ‘t is like the distance
On the look of death.

Emily Dickinson

From my childhood, I have been arrested at the sight of dramatic sunlight and shadows falling across abandoned structures such as this one I found north of Weatherford several summers ago.  I believe, however, that my sentiments have always lay closer to the painter Edward Hopper than the poet Emily Dickinson, though I confess that Dickinson’s poetry evokes considerably more than Hopper’s testimony:  “All I ever wanted to do was paint the light on the side of the building.”  Having read hundreds of pages of biography on Hopper, I have come to the conclusion that his disposition was closer to Emily than mine.  I personally find a sense of joy and the sublime when I see a 45-degree slant of sunlight across a dilapidated structure, and have felt that for as long as I can remember.  The young Henry David Thoreau recorded in his journal: “Aeschylus had a clear eye for the commonest things.”  I could say the same for myself, except that, to me, these “commonest things” cease being prosaic the moment they are bathed in natural light, the moment a geometric, hard-edge shadow emerges to define their contours.

I have spent some of this Friday morning, gazing out the window of my studio into the backyard, admiring the patterns of sun and shadow falling across my privacy fence.  I often wish I could call up the kind of language that Wordsworth did when he described the stirrings he felt deep within, as nature invited him for a closer inspection.  All of these things matter to me as I write this morning, and seek a way to complete this small watercolor that I started and abandoned over a week ago.


My apologies for leaving the blog dangling for so long, again.  I spent the past week attending the Advanced Placement Summer Institute at TCU.  I have to fulfill my Art History requirement there every third summer.  The classes lasted from 8-4:30 daily, and I hadn’t realized how many years it had been since I sat and listened for such long stretches, taking notes, focusing and experiencing brain drain.  When I got home every evening, I had nothing left to give at the studio.  So, I gave my painting a rest.

This morning, I am thinking of finishing this small piece, matting and framing it to put in a Craft Show tomorrow (Saturday) from 9-3:00 at the Stephen United Methodist Church, 1800 W. Randol Mill Rd., Arlington, Texas.  It is time to get some more of my original small watercolors out into the marketplace.

Thanks for reading.

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