It’s been a great week for light. I splashed around in it yesterday, and splashed around in it today. Well, what can you expect for a creature of the grasslands? You have to shrink that distance somehow. Being able to read waves of light for what lies behind them helps. The most important of these colours, is brightness. As my ancestors knew it many thousands of years ago when they were living in Central Asia, it was a colour we might call light, and contained a whole host of contemporary colours: blue, yellow, gold, white, black, blonde …. It was what caught the eye: a flash that drew you to it. In other words, it was something that caught your eye at a distance and drew your legs to it, and there you were, most likely at water or food, or it was something you avoided, the danger of enemies, and so on. In today’s world, we call this instant ability to read the world “beauty.” Here’s some, revealing a long story about big sage (and a salsify intruder) in summer drought.
Such beauty warrants some admiration. For most of history, the ability to transcribe this beauty onto objects was a means of honing this skill, and was called “art.” Today, we just say, “Oh, he has an eye for colour.” Truer words were never said.
To my ancestors, really, there were only two colours in the images above: light and life, green as all get out. The other colour was red. The smokebush below is holding some up into the morning sun. Again, it draws the eye, but not with a quick look like the light in the seed hairs to its left. This look is slow and pools like blood, and blood, we know, is dark or bright, depending upon whether it flows out to the limbs or flows back to the heart, whether it is flowing freely or thickening, or whether it is in a deep wound or a shallow one.
It is, in other words, the colour of darkness. But that’s not the point I wanted to make today, not directly at any rate. For that, do have a look at how much information the blending of the two colours, light and life, can give:
In the above image, the leaves are casting various qualities of shade, mixed with various shades of light. As my ancestors knew, it’s not light and dark that are being viewed here, but quality and shade, or if you like, two forms of intensity, blending and standing in contrast, as it is with blood.
The same below, with arrow-leafed balsam root leaves in their last week, but in a palette closer to light than to life. Sure, the leaves start out as life, but then they become light …
… and then they curl into shade, and this physical form of shade remains.
And all the history of the leaf, and the year it has lived through, can be read, as we say, “in this light.” We might have forgotten this language, but the words haven’t.
So, let’s look at my bee garden, taken in streams of bright morning light that wash the garden away. These poppies, lilies, calendulas and gloriosa daisies, to name a few, have set out colour to catch the eyes of bees, but ours as well. Look how they are “shades of colour”, the language would say, or “hues.”
Trust that language. It knows that colour is a kind of shadow, and that “hues” are the colour of the sky at dawn, when the darkness is “lit”, or turned white. As it warms, these shades appear, all partially formed. This is the colour knowledge that Goethe argued in 1820, and quite different than that of Newtonian physics. That’s not the beauty I wanted to look at today. To eliminate most of the variables of shade, let’s go very simple, and look at the blue-gold-white-black (all one colour, remember) glint that catches the eye and makes the body follow, first on the hill…
… then in a ditch …
… and then in my garden, where the hill has come down to visit, drawn by the flash of dawn as well (even in the early evening.) First, shallots in flower…
… then garlic exuberantly taking to the sky …
… and then both wild and domestic bees in the oregano. Note the subtle variations in mood. Your eye is precise enough to read all this information and give it emotional information, or mood.
That mood is shade. Here is how it reveals the chamomile:
… and the dill
… and the salad chrysanthemums.
In one tiny range of light mixed with shade, of the sun coming to light, so many moods, expressed by the life they have come through, and able to be read there. When we say, “casting light on an argument,” we mean just this, not a beam of light from a flashlight, but our ability to read the argument once it is revealed, and to reveal the life within it, that is to say the life that gave it forth and continues through it.
And comes from it again as seed. Our eyes are built to notice this seed.
Wherever on the dark earth it may be.