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Dappled Light Invites the Soul to Loaf

When I sit on the shorn grass, feeling its silk brush my toes and its scent tickle my nostrils; or when I walk a path in the woods where the trees arch overhead, passing layered granite etched with moss; or when I take a chair to the wide creek stubbled with smooth, dry stones and I sit under the overhanging limbs, listening to the black water curl and skid around rock – of all these country pleasures, the greatest is the dappled light.

How should a layman like me explicate its physics? Should I say, “Visible light is an electromagnetic wave, 400 to 700 billionths of a meter long”? Except that light is also kind of a particle called a “photon.” Sometimes. Which is also a “quantum” of energy. Especially when diving through a narrow partition. (See notes on quantum mechanics if you feel like being further quarked.)

How much easier it is to explicate shadow: It is an absence. There are the shadows of the city, massive and geometric, into which we scurry from the concrete heat, with which we cloak ourselves in breathy exclamations of relief. And then there are the shadows of the country, organic and intermittent, animated by a breeze and freckling the earth (dear Gerard) with creation’s shape.

What better than dappled light to still the chatter of the mind? It invites body and soul to loaf; to lay by all that geometry. I sit by the creek with my head thrown back, the coolness and the heat fluttering my knees; only the leaves that follow the sun with their own peculiar senses are visible, dappling each other.

Here, particles of light limn my visible spectrum. Absent are the burn and the worry, the physics of a hundred things undone. The partitioned leaves wave and waggle, the sky dives electric blue through their narrow gaps, and I find myself spinning, like illuminated dust, a billionth of a quantum closer to happiness.


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