Your discussion revolving round Gothe, light, and the experience of light, especially the spirtual aspect of light, made me think yet again of another old blog post I once made, in particular with respect to an excerpt from a PBS program about Ansel Adams.
I've always been attracted to paintings or photos that play with light: light in mist, light pouring from moon or sun, light from fireplaces, light from lanterns, light dancing or sparkling on water, light refracted or reflected through glass or gems or windows. When I was a kid I used to go to the library and flip through pages of paintings and photos and linger over stuff like that for hours, just heartened by whatever they did with light. I'd often leave feeling much better about things than when I initially came in.
Last summer PBS broadcast a special "American Experience" episode on Ansel Adams. The narrator was talking about one event that had a big impact on Adams, with respect to light, that sent chills up my spine when I heard it. What Ansel said was so incredibly right. I just had to do a google search to find it, because I remember reading the lines afterward on the website for the program:
Narrator: Each summer, he ventured farther and farther up into the rugged high country beyond Yosemite Valley -- sometimes on his own, and sometimes with members of the Sierra Club, the wilderness group John Muir had founded thirty years before -- long days of climbing and hiking that began before dawn and often ended well after dark -- making pictures when he could, and wandering, he wrote, in "translucent unity with the world and sky."
Late one morning in the summer of 1923, wandering amidst the harsh and bleakly beautiful high country east of the valley, he came as close as he ever would to capturing in words the soaring emotions that sometimes came over him in the high mountains.
Ansel Adams: I was climbing the long ridge west of Mount Clark. It was one of those mornings where the sunlight is burnished with a keen wind and long feathers of cloud move in a lofty sky. The silver light turned every blade of grass and every particle of sand into a luminous metallic splendor; there was nothing, however small, that did not clash in the bright wind, that did not send arrows of light through the glassy air. I was suddenly arrested in the long crunching path up the ridge by an exceedingly pointed awareness of the light. The moment I paused, the full impact of the mood was upon me; I saw more clearly than I have ever seen before or since the minute detail of the grasses ...the small flotsam of the forest, the motion of the high clouds streaming above the peaks... I dreamed that for a moment time stood quietly, and the vision became but the shadow of an infinitely greater world -- and I had within the grasp of consciousness a transcendental experience.
Narrator: He would spend the rest of his life trying to capture on film the quicksilver light he saw that morning -- and the sense it conveyed of a deeper truth and meaning.
I love those words of his about that morning of light. I know exactly what he means, and I can easily understand why he'd do what he did as a result, for the rest of his life. There's just nothing in the world like a day burnished in that way, burnished so intensely, burnished by a bright quicksilver light.
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