"Let light be your sometime traveling companion . . ."

SIGMUND FREUD said that neurosis is "over determined"-that multiple causes conspire to produce psychological illness. The same is true of psychological health. The love of light, rhythmic vision, mythopoeic imagination, and humor can help "over determine" the opening up of the visual world.

A few years ago I opened the door one Saturday morning to pick up the newspaper only to realize that the world had been subtly but wonderfully transformed. The color of the sky and trees appeared deeper and more vibrant and the depth of my visual field seemed to have increased. Over the previous years my subliminal attention to light had been growing, perhaps aided in part by a scrutiny of several paintings (including two by Degas) showing light streaming in windows. A vigorous exercise program, including a lot of muscle stretching, may also have helped. In any case on that August morning in 1982 I entered into the world of light, which is the birthright of any good artist, for, as Henri Matisse said: "The experience of light is the noblest pleasure."

If you do not now have a love and fascination for light, you can develop it. Consider that light is the only absolute in the Einsteinian universe. Nothing travels faster than it and the motion of objects is calculated relative to it. It can be conceived of either as particle or wave depending on how it is viewed. It expresses the mystic formula of being "neither this nor that nor this and that." It is the sea in which the fish of beauty swim and the eyes' vanguard leading them into previously inaccessible places. If you develop a passionate intensity about it and start to become entranced with some of its many manifestations, it will begin to reveal itself to you. You will then become its permanent devotee and unrequited suitor.

Drink in the light on leaves, cavort with the light that passes to you through a cluster of foliage. Become a walking emulsion passively registering the sun's flashes in the woods. Lose yourself in the Harlequin Effect as a line places a tree partly in shadow and partly in light. Dance with the blessed spirits as the sun, screened by an intervening tree trunk, beatifies insects flying among the celestially ensilvered leaves. Swim in the pyrotechnics given off by water bugs skirting among solar reflections. Marvel at the light on pine needles and as you walk by see how, like an inspired magnet, it switches polarity. See one of lights most beautiful embodiments when it sheathes twigs and branches, transforming leafless winter trees and bushes into beings of pure light. If you are fortunate enough to live in those places that periodically experience ice storms, witness one of nature's most transporting spectacles-the morning after when the sun shines on the ice-encased trees placing the viewer into the sheerest bubble of light.

Let light be your sometime traveling companion as you walk by metal fences and railings and, as you part, acknowledge its presence with a gesture of friendship and gratitude. See the Maze Effect as light darts through water in the honey-combed cells of a man-hole cover or as it gracefully outlines a puddle of water. Learn to love the dark sparkles of light off a creosoted pole, or off tar patches in the road and relate them to David Smith's Voltri sculptures. See the photonic scintillas from the carbonized remains of a burnt tree and then look at a Louise Nevelson sculpture in a new light. See the filaments of light as it incarnates itself on telephone and power cables, as it strobes and flashes off insulators and mesh fences.

As you fly over the Midwest see the embedded light in the fields of Kansas and Nebraska and realize how abstract expressionists such as William Baziotes wonderfully captured this effect. Follow the sinuous line of light in rivers and if you have a clear day and are flying over rough terrain, feel blessed to see those flashes of riparian light that can make even the white-knuckle flyer murmur a Hosanna to the air.

Fear not the obsessive allure of auto-eroticism but revel in chrome-maticism and the Vent Effect as light plays the scale on the keyboard of a car. Let light wipe the windshields of a car and if that does not dispel the mist from your eyes, watch as it casts pellucid bands onto passing road signs. On a dark street behold the beauty of a car's red back lights (as well as the intersection lights) and how its headlights magically illumine trees and make the road into a moonscape. While driving on a dark road, notice how the rain transfigures stoplights and their ground reflections.

See street signs anew as lines and globules of light caress them and stare at an illuminated basketball backboard and as you slam-dunk with your eyes, conjure up the nimbus of a Buddha. Look for this rare but not endangered sight-the shadow's wraith cast by the early morning sun into steam rising before a sign. Entrance yourself on the line of light on a flag pole, meditate on it and perhaps imagine it as a visible procreative life force and at the same time see the azure not as background but as the all-enveloping ether, the mold that shapes the objects of the visible world. And if you prefer not to stop, watch the movement of arboreal tracery against this line (roof flashing and silver swing poles will also do) and see how they skip and dance. See how light slides down the gilt curve of a bannister, how it breaks up and reassembles and then view again the work of a sculptor such as Jose de Rivera. As you walk by a street sign with holes, see it as an instrument whose stops are played by light and the background foliage.

Consider the spectres of light reflected from windows onto the brickwork of adjoining buildings. (A building across from the United Nations in New York is especially interesting because the color of the brick changes, transforming the spectres from a whitish to a greenish hue.) Eagerly await new fallen snow and the chance to observe spectrum sparkles, while at other times keep an expectant eye out for sparkles in the streets, sidewalks, and brickwork. (Downtown San Francisco has the best I've seen.) Once caught up in the world of sparkles, you will no longer always decry the bottle shards left by the thoughtless for these also produce sparkles worthy of your admiration. And it may so happen that you do not automatically disdain the random scraps of refuse for the glints they provide. (Forgive me Woodsy Owl but the Magpie understands.)

Become enraptured in the golden arboreal light of sunset and if the urge to merge grows too great, bow and walk on for even attachment to beauty can become excessive. And when you learn to love light never again will you curse February but will instead place your benediction on this month when winters light, with its gradation from silver to deep Renaissance blue, is most striking. Indeed you will begin to love all seasons and all the months for each one gives us a different aspect of light. Welcome to the Dada Land of Light.

Copyright 1990 & 2000 by Dennis Roth - Please do not distribute without the author's permission.