Sunday, January 5, 2014


Isaiah 45:7a - I create the light and make the darkness 

(I'm beginning to think that I should warn new friends that there's a risk in teaching me something or sharing something profound:  it might show up in my blog.  So, you know who you are-- keep being brilliant in my presence, ok?  )

"Chiaroscuro - Contrasting effects of light and shade in a work of art. Leonardo da Vinci brought the technique to its full potential, but it is usually associated with such 17th-century artists as Caravaggio and Rembrandt, who used it to outstanding effect."  

I've been thinking about the chiaroscuro nature of my days lately.  As Christmas approached and the lights went up in the neighborhoods, in the shopping malls, in my friends' photos on social media, they looked more beautiful this year than I can remember them being for several years. It's not that the lights actually were brighter, but it seems that light, when contrasted with the darkness I've lived in recent years,  is somehow more beautiful and more significant.  Just as Caravaggio's smiling young lady in blue, or DaVinci's angel would be less striking without the darkness in the paintings, it seems that the darkness that accumulates as I age only serves to make the bright moments in life that much more beautiful.

These days, I'm watching my two older kids grow through those teeth-clenching teenage years, and sometimes the shadows feel suffocating.  But then I catch a glimpse of that fusion of the sweet children that they once were and the admirable adults that they're growing into. In that moment, that vision is all the more beautiful because of the deep shading of these seasons full of ill-tempered, refrigerator-emptying, sibling-bashing, kitchen-trashing aliens in my home.

My trip through the middle-aged adult dating scene this past year has had its burnt siena shadings of frustration and hurt feelings, but where I stand now, a year later--still single, still wondering how life will turn out--feels bright with possibility.  I've met some wonderful men, added some of them to my life as friends, and I've begun to wake from my Rip Van Winkle social life to discover a whole world of people, music, activities, restaurants and movies that I'd somehow missed in my years as Andre's wife.  My life is rich now because I'm aware of how emotionally impoverished it was before.  I'm beginning to see that the shadow of loneliness is not one I have to run from. I can simply keep moving in the direction of living life as fully as I can, and enjoying the light of companionship when it appears. When it does, I'm finding that it's that much more soul-feeding because I know how precious it is.

The quote from Isaiah is a gift from a new friend in my life, a friend who has seen more than his share of darkness in recent years.  This scripture seemed to be telling him that both the light and the darkness are part of God's plan.  Carrying that reminder in his heart, he has begun to see more and more light. His sharing of that fragment of scripture with me was another way of multiplying that light and I'm grateful

Tonight, over a friendly home-cooked meal, I was catching up with a creative/inventor friend of mine, who showed me a piece of electronic art he's been designing/ playing with.  He calls it a "Starling", and it contains some beautifully color-changing lights and one dark spot. It turns out that the dark spot is simply where the battery is, but in discussing his creation, it seemed to me that the dark spot in his twinkling creation is perhaps another use of chiaroscuro: what is bright and lovely is made more so by the presence of some shadow.

As we move through this season just past the Winter Solstice, the days are getting brighter and longer; the darkest day of the year is past, and from here, the light grows until we reach the Autumnal Equinox, when the darkness will begin to move in again. Somehow, acknowledging the presence of both the light and the dark, the seasons of shading and the highlighting, makes the light that I see in this new year ahead seem brighter and more beautiful. In 2014, I wish you light, and the ability to see that the shadows don't steal the light--they enhance it.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  John 1:4-6