Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Morning Thanks--What light brings

We're tilted at a different angle these days, and that's not some kind of parable. For a couple of months during the summer, if I step out on the deck just outside the door down here, I can watch a sunrise and a sunset; but these days, with the angle of things, we're looking away sadly. Every day the sun appears to drop south another an inch or so and will, now until December, rolling out longer shadows across open land.

Saturday I spent some time at a place where Sioux Quartzite outcroppings quite shockingly shape ordinary prairie into what seems a mountain gorge. I wanted to test a new lens, but I also wanted to explore a bit, wander around on an inviting fall afternoon that's all the more beautiful because it's barely a breath away from winter. I wanted to see what I could see.

I'd been to the place before several times, but always with others, even with a whole bus full of people. I'd never been there alone, and an untested lens gave me a good cause to explore on my own. 

Palisades State Park was maybe two weeks past peak color. The wind was up, and the whole time I was there I wore a jacket and cap, just to stay warm. Still, the sun was ever over my shoulder it seemed, making mostly denuded woods along Split Rock Creek mottled in a way that creates art just about everywhere you look. 

It took this slow learner some years to discover that photography is all about light. Where it hits, what it hits, and how it hits what it chooses to is the story behind whatever composition you're capturing. Imagine that shot at the top of the page on a cloudy day: no color + no icing on the creek + no black overhanging limb = no picture. It's all about light really.

Look for yourself. The lens works well, but what's here isn't so much about the lens as it is about the light. 

Oh, the composition would be there if the sky was slate gray, but these shots wouldn't be what they are without light.

Yesterday, Sunday, was a gorgeous day, even more beautiful. But my eyes were still doing what they'd been up to the day before, hunting for the interplay of light in the darkness all around because it's the contrast that's telling, right? Where it is and where it isn't tells a story. 

Still, my guess is that when worship began I may well have been the only soul in the sanctuary who couldn't help seeing what sunlight through the east windows of the church made telling or beautiful. I couldn't help it.

And I don't know why old churches like the one we attended yesterday put three huge oak chairs up behind the pulpit. I'm sure that once upon a time there was a reason, three being such a bountifully biblical number; but it seems to me a little pushy to believe we're hosting the Trinity. I mean, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all there, I'm sure; but I don't think anyone honestly believes we give such divine parishioners their own separate thrones. Or am the heathen?

But what I saw yesterday right after we sat down just about took my breath away. The huge thrown in the northwest corner of the choir loft, was lit up, filled with light, just like that leaf on the otherwise empty branch above. Through the southeast window, the morning sun cast that pulpit chair in a shine that made it seem, for a moment at least, wholly occupied.

I wish I had a picture, but I didn't take a camera into church. You'll just have to trust me. As worship began, it was as if someone or some thing spectral and regal had decided to abide with us in the sanctuary. That old lit chair seemed it's own kind of worship.

I've got alternatives here--I mean, that big chair was lit up because the angle of the sun yesterday was perfectly in line with a church window on the east wall. It's not hard to explain because it was nothing more or less than physics. Scientifically, no one was in that chair. The light cast it into something cute, not divine. 

Maybe I'm getting old and silly, but just for a moment as church began, the haunting idea that the old oak chair had become a seat for the angelic was just too sweet to dismiss. 

Maybe all it held was sunlight.

Then again, maybe not. 

Maybe what was there just for a time on Sunday morning was all we'd ever hoped to find. 

Both of us know what lots of true believers would see. And who knows?--maybe they're right.

Anyway, all of that happened when the worship began.  

No matter what it was, this morning I'm thankful for what I saw--out there on Split Rock Creek and right there in church.

It's all about light. And you certainly may consider that line a parable. 


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