Tag Archives: Light

Lights

I think I’ve found a new favorite refuge, sitting here on a cold cement balustrade in the damp January twilight.  It is the only thing left from Meyer Library, which Stanford demolished last year in a project that morphed the seismically unsound structure into a verdant circle of greenery and flagstones.  Normally I walk right past the out-of-place block of concrete, but tonight I paused for a while as dusk faded to deep blue. Settling down in the driest area I could find, I watched as illuminated windows turned to gold and became the spines of books lined neatly on shelves, bursting with a thousand imagined worlds.

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Above me, branches fringed with silver-green needles held back the ghosts of dissipating clouds. Lamps along the path floated like spheres, their posts fading into the dusk until the lights seemed suspended from the sky — the lures of stars fishing for dreams.  I watched the ebb and flow of people around me: a lady in high heels and a glittering dress, a toddler trailing behind his family, countless bicycles and their riders.  It was like being a drop of water, watching the ocean.

My brain has been a hundred whirring gears, ready to overheat with too many questions about life and not enough answers.  I had decided to go outside partly because I needed to mail a letter, and partly because the paced rhythm of walking has a calming effect on me.  Now, settled beneath the trees, I found it remarkably soothing to simply sit and focus on the illuminated geometry of rectangles and spheres before me.  A line from one of Coldplay’s songs echoed over the clamoring of my mind:

Lights will guide you home

I let my scattered fragments of attention converge on the rails leading down to the paved circle where Meyer Library once stood.  They were lit from below, and the gleaming lines looked like spiderwebs beaded with dew.  Lights guiding the way.

It felt amazing to just sit and notice the metaphors and similes around me.  It was like I used to do all the time as a kid, before college and adult life carried me away from my imaginary worlds.  Stopping to notice things with an open mind is so simple and yet so difficult — like trying to catch sunlight.  Conceptually, catching a sunbeam should be easy: to grasp something, you simply put your hand where it is and close your fingers snugly around it.  The execution is nearly impossible: no matter how many times I clench my fist in the light, I cannot hold it.

It is only when I place my hand into the light with an open palm, that finally, it rests there.

Grounding Moments

Late in the morning, I sat on a stone step near the Clark Center and planted my palm into the freshly-cut grass beside me.  The sunlight danced through the leaves of the slender tree to my right, scattering confetti of light across the vivid green patch of lawn.  I could almost feel the coming autumn in the air.  Since September has begun, some mornings carry a slight crispness that make me think of misty dawns, fire-colored leaves, pumpkins and home-baked joy.

I probably didn’t draw much attention sitting there with my hand in the grass, surrounded by the glass curvature of the Clark’s windowed walls.  On the outside, I was a student breathing in the sunlit air.  On the inside, though, I was struggling against a vague loneliness that had unexpectedly caught me in the middle of my day.  I think it had something to do with not sleeping quite enough this week, if my drowsiness earlier that morning was any indication.  After class, I wandered down the walkway and settled down on the step, feeling the beauty of the golden leaves against the clear blue sky even as I grappled to understand my own emotions.

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And I determinedly pressed my hand to the ground.

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Last week, a wonderful friend from my class shared with me what another classmate and friend had told her about experiencing the moment–about feeling the earth beneath your hand and the sunlight on your face, and realizing in that moment you are there, alive.  So here I was, my eyes closed and my face to the wind as I tried to regroup myself for the afternoon.

That’s why I was sitting there with my hand in the grass.  And I was reminded of the simple yet intricate beauty of a few willowy branches waving in the wind, painting the sky.

I was reminded just how good it is to be alive. 🙂

A Photo Essay in Textures

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I was heading back from med school today when I paused to snap some photos at Memorial Church.  It was a bright afternoon, and the alcoves were boldly patterned with shadow and dashes of afternoon sunlight.  

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On an impulse, I switched the filter on my iPhone to the tonal setting and peered around, catching the interplay of light and dark.

 I have long loved the concept of chiaroscuro, the dance of light and shadow in photography and other forms of art.  More often, though, I focus on the palette of colors around me–the different shades of green in the sunlit leaves, the heaven-sent blue of the sky, or even the dull black of the asphalt beneath my shoes.

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In the absence of color, however, my eyes were instinctively drawn to the patterns and textures around me.  Rough stone, shadow-ink, arches of light.

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Even an anonymous bicyclist passing by me became a whirling dance of shapes and shadows.

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Later this evening, after watching an instructional video on placing IVs, I paused to examine the snaking paths of my own veins.  We’ll be practicing on each other, and I’ve never had an IV before.  It looks like it’ll be more complicated than drawing blood, and I’m mainly nervous about having one of my valves get in the way of the thin plastic catheter we’ll be threading into my vein.

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Yes, I’m a little nervous.  But this is an essential part of my training and a skill that will enable me to help others.

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Maybe my stethoscope will be a bit like my camera filter…it provides a new lens, teaching me to see with my ears, to notice things I might miss otherwise.  Reminding me to pause and listen, which is a good thing to do any day, regardless of whether or not I’m in the hospital or classroom or clinic.  

It’s easy to let life and others slip by.  It’s like how my heart is always beating; blood is always pulsing through my veins, but I rarely stop to think about it and appreciate this rushing gift of life.  It’s only when I see my blood flashing into the hub of a needle that I really remember it’s there, or when I have to palpate for a vein, or bandage my finger after a mishap in the kitchen.  But it’s always there, just like everything around us.

I can hear the pulse of this life in the footsteps around me as I cross the med school sidewalks, or in the rhythm of voices lost in dialogue.  And with a clock to my ear, I can almost hear the heartbeat of time.

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Campus bell tower – September 2014