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In the light of the heart

I awaken before dawn and stand looking out through the window near my bed. Beyond the darkened glass the yard lies sleeping: a still life done in gradations of black. On the far side of the pane, a leafy tangle of shrubbery pushes up velvety green against the window sill. Farther out, silhouetted against the pale moon, the limbs of conifers and spruce shift in the low wind. Above the treetops a range of mountains loom halfway to the sky. Their slopes appear shadowy and anonymous, the highest peak a faint black line against the night sky. Though I've looked on this scene a thousand times, have memorized its details and contours, it seems alien now, vaguely ominous and foreboding, a world made strange by the darkness. My eyes strain to locate something familiar, some point of reference, anxious for the first stirrings of light above the summit.

There is no light though for what seems like a long time. I wait motionless at the window, lulled into thought by the utter stillness, the sinister magic of the night landscape. From here the darkness seems immense, an almost physical presence, distorting and controlling the horizon. Unconsciously, I try to imagine the yard as it was earlier, in daylight, the shape and color of its objects, their size and depth. I'm only partially able to do so.

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So I begin to think of another place, one which this moment remains in light. I remind myself that when these mountains are in shadow, there are mountains somewhere else brilliant with sunlight; that when this landscape is darkest there is another not far away where the sun is ascending. I try to picture the sun in its slow ascension: a huge yellow wheel that circles the earth, its revolutions permitting a sharing of light, a perfect balance of illumination, one area never remaining too long in darkness.

Nearly an hour passes before the first suggestion of light appears above the summit, a faint pink brushstroke almost unnoticeable against the surrounding dark. With a nearly imperceptible progress the light widens, lifting the high peaks from shadow, restoring traces of color to the slopes farther down. I can make out rock formations, deep purple and rose pink, and those small trees nearest the sun, their branches shimmering with light.

As the morning proceeds I think of the place from which the light has come most recently: those states immediately to the east, the ocean stretching out beyond them, the continent which lies on the far side. I think eventually of Europe, those countries which just a few hours ago slipped into twilight.

I tell myself that there's someone in one of those countries who waited up as I have, a man who looked out through the stillness of his window and asked himself the same questions: where the light had gone and why it was slow in its returning. Perhaps he watched the sunset from his porch, the light draining from his city, night coming on in great dark waves, eclipsing buildings, sidewalks, streets. As he looked out maybe he began to think, as I'm thinking now, of the place to which the light had departed; that that light, in its regular passage between countries, is something we have in common, a mutual brightness connecting all of humanity. I'd like to know now, as the dawn opens out beyond my window, igniting the mountain in an avalanche of color, that this light has come with the blessing of someone I've never met, a person who has kept a vigil like mine in a window on the other side of the world.

I'd like to think finally that this is something that we give to one another, this radiance which passes from country to country, one human being to another in the solitary hours when our lives seem darkest. In the most difficult moments of my own life I have found such a light in the hearts of those around me. A pure light which now seems an extension of the dawnlight which infuses those mountains with color. As the sun brightens its peaks I've seen the light of the heart brighten the human landscape, illuminating and liberating, making it beautiful, radiant, triumphant. That light has been there always when I needed it most, when I looked for it, remained open to it, had the courage to embrace it - as my open hands embrace the dawn which this moment transforms the world outside my window.

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