There is a Certain Slant of Light

Watercoloring in the Afternoon, with thoughts of Emily Dickinson

Watercoloring in the Afternoon, with thoughts of Emily Dickinson

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

This afternoon, as I chip away at this still life, I am flooded with the silence of the day, the slanting light that I cannot keep away from my garage door windows (all the blinders I taped up day-before-yesterday have fallen off), and the sense of relief that follows a noisy day of high school teaching.  Only the drone of my clothes dryer just on the other side of the utility room door is heard, except for the occasional rustle of dead, dry leaves blowing across my driveway.  It is an affirming ambiance for painting.

Emily Dickinson’s poem is considerably darker than what I feel right now.  I thought about her “slant of light” as the sun came out a few minutes ago and threw its shafts through my windows and across my still-life arrangement.  And I recalled that it was a winter light of which she spoke.  And I knew that the poem was overflowing with the mixed feelings of sublime and depression in regard to religious sentiment.  That final note is not on my heart as I write this.  I’ve been listening to Voices and Visions broadcasts of the works of Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams, and I once again am finding myself lost in these objects before me, and I regard that as a good thing.

Thanks for reading.

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