A Certain Slant of Light

Morning on Alazan Bayou ~ Nacogdoches County, Texas

Hopes for a perfect autumn respite — color-filled days, cooler nights, woodsmoke scented air – had washed away before a flood of interminable, days-long rains. While sodden squirrels sheltered and sulked, nightbirds huddled among the dripping oaks, hickories, and pines of the east Texas forest: invisible, unwilling to take flight. Only occasional hints of frog-song rippled across the silence: soft, hesitant trills that sluiced into consciousness as gently as the shush of footsteps along the sandy trails.

Resigned as much to the rain as to the next day’s unavoidable departure, I retired early, falling asleep to the insistent patter of raindrops. Awakened before dawn by unexpected birdsong, I made coffee, then stepped outside to gauge the weather. Improbably, the rain had stopped. Bits of blue shimmered above the treetops, and what darkness remained served only as a foil for the shafts of sunlight piercing the green canopy.

Even the most casual skywatcher has seen the sort of rays that greeted me that morning. The word used to describe them — ‘crepuscular’ — refers to twilight, and crepuscular rays occur primarily during sunrise or sunset twilight. When they appear, streaks of light seem to radiate directly from the sun, shining through breaks in the clouds or past objects arrayed along an irregular horizon, such as mountain tops.

While the shadowed areas between the rays are formed by obstructions,  the light itself is scattered by airborne dust, water droplets, or even air molecules, providing a visible contrast between shadowed and illuminated parts of the sky.

On this particular morning, days of rain had led to significant ground fog, heavy enough to scatter the light into particularly vivid and well-defined rays. As I watched, the initially monochromatic, almost white, rays began taking on color.

Despite the color, the phenomenon clearly wasn’t a rainbow. Seeing the images, sky-savvy friends suggested the possibility of a double effect: crepuscular rays combined with a corona.

Coronae, produced by the diffraction of light, often appear when thin clouds partially obscure the sun or the moon, but tiny droplets of fog or mist can produce the effect under other conditions. Sometimes, the droplets need not be transparent or even spherical; small ice crystals, pollen grains, and large dust particles also can lead to the formation of coronae.

In a corona, the intensely bright central aureole almost always is white, surrounded by a fringe of yellows and reds. Occasionally, one or more successively fainter, more softly-colored rings will surround the aureole, ranging from blue on the inside through greens and yellows to the outermost red.

With the colors more subtly mixed than in a rainbow, blues and greens can be especially hard to see, but in this photo, at least a hint of them seems to exist just below the sun.

While physicists speak of diffraction and droplets, English-language poets have attempted to describe these experiences of sunlight in quite different terms. More than a few, confounded by the inadequacy of language, have invented their own words.

In the poem “Fern Hill,” Dylan Thomas turned to ‘windfall light’ as his image of choice: a phrase that evokes apple-green light tumbling to the ground.

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, who can pile up adjectives with the best of them, turned to the thirteenth-century word shivemeaning a thin piece sliced off from a larger —  to create shivelight for  his poem, “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire…”:

Wherever an elm arches,
shivelights and shadowtackle in long ‘lashes lace, lance, and pair.

C.S. Lewis regularly turned to the sun as a metaphor in his work. When such familiar comparisons as “shafts of delicious sunlight” didn’t seem adequate, he turned to “Godlight,” as in his Letters to Malcolm:

Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are patches of Godlight in the woods of our experience.

Despite the best efforts of the poets, none of these words has caught on, perhaps because they seem to describe the light without expressing the aesthetic pleasure that accompanies watching light playing among the trees.

One word that does seem to combine aesthetics with the experience of nature is the nearly untranslatable Japanese word komorebi.

Komorebi (木漏れ日) consists of three kanji and the hiragana particle れ. The kanji 木 means ‘tree’ or ‘trees‘;  漏 refers to ‘leaking through’ or ‘escape’; 日, is ‘light‘ or ‘sun‘. Because no simple English translation exists, phrases such as ‘sunshine filtering through leaves’ or ‘dappled light’ sometimes are used, although ‘the interplay between light and leaves when sunlight shines through trees’ seems especially apt.

Komorebi can refer to an assortment of phenomena: not only crepuscular rays and coronae but also the larger patches of shimmering, movable light produced when sunlight meets fog and rain. The Irish poet Caitríona O’Reilly captures the magic beautifully in her poem, “Komorebi”:

Between the world and the word
are three small shapes,
the signs for ‘‘tree,’’ ‘‘escape,’’ and ‘‘sun.’’
I watch how the light leaks through them,
casting a shade in both directions
in the late year, on the russet path
barred with the shadows of trees.
I love how it exults, like any escapee,
on the lake in slow reflective waves,
in radiant bands ascending the birch trunks
according to some unknown frequency,
and in the cormorant extending his wet wings to it
in a messianic gesture,
as if dazzled to absolute
by the word and the world’s beauty.  

Scientists seek precision; poets seek metaphor. Meanwhile, komorebi drifts through the woodlands and down the streams, always beyond our grasp. Perhaps no English equivalent for the kanji is needed. Sometimes, an encounter with escaped sunlight filtering through leaves is quite enough.

 

Comments always are welcome.
For more information about poet Caitríona O’Reilly, please click here.

149 thoughts on “A Certain Slant of Light

  1. Oh my these photos are what I consider once in a life time captures. I have never been so lucky to see anything of the sort in real life- I have seen many shafts of light such as these only in magazine photos. I must say that you seem to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. These photos are simply lovely.

    1. There always are so many what-ifs with photos like these. What if I hadn’t walked outside when I did? What if I’d already packed my camera in the car? What if I’d been so eager to get on the road I hadn’t noticed the light changing? What if I hadn’t spent enough time with the camera to be able to change settings quickly? And so on.

      I suppose that in a sense every photo is a once-in-a-lifetime capture, but some are more special than others. Like you, I’ve often admired photos like these in magazines, and it was great fun to discover I’d managed to capture at least a bit of this glory.

  2. I agree that sometimes when the words aren’t quite right you have to step out of your head and accept that you need to focus on the experience. As in this case by letting the rays of sunlight change you, one hopes, for the better while you enjoy them. Your photos are beautiful.

    1. It amuses me that I really enjoyed this scene only after the fact. At the time, I was so busy thinking, “Which shutter speed? Which aperture?” that I was wholly focused on the process of capturing the images. If I’d taken the time to just bask in the experience, there wouldn’t have been any photos. But now? I have plenty of time to enjoy the rays in retrospect, and the ability to share them with you. It’s a win-win!

    1. I appreciate that, John. This post has been percolating for some time, and it finally came round right, as they say. I’m pleased that it touched you; thanks for saying so.

  3. Words and photos are just beautiful. Inspired and inspiring. This is a post to savour. Thank you so much. You know what you have done, don’t you? I must now go and find a word or group of words, in German, to express exactly what you have said here. If I find something worth repeating I will tell you.

    1. While I was skimming references to komorebi, I came across a site that listed several words that don’t easily translate to English. One was Waldeinsamkeit, which they defined as “The feeling experienced while alone in the woods, connecting with nature.” Not being a German speaker, I don’t know if that’s an acceptable translation, but it might trigger something for you in your search for similar words or phrases.

      I do remember the experience of walking in the Black Forest after a snowstorm, many years ago. Then, it wasn’t the light so much as the silence that seemed to permeate everything. I still can “hear” it, if I listen closely.

      Do let me know what you find — this is such a wonderfully interesting topic, and I’ve no doubt if anyone could find some German equivalents, it would be you.

  4. I’ve always loved the term ‘dappled light’ to describe the light coming through the trees and spotting on the ground and pavements in random patterns. ‘Komorebi’ does seem to adequately describe what our English language can’t.

    Lovely essay as usual, Linda.

    1. From what I’ve read, ‘komorebi’ also can be used to refer to those odd, crescent-shaped bits of light that appear on the sidewalk during a total eclipse. Now I wonder whether the same word would be used whether the crescents were formed by light coming through leaves, or through a colander — that was a favorite eclipse-viewing tool here.

      Speaking of dappled things, you’ve reminded me of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “Pied Beauty,” which begins with the line, “Glory be to God for dappled things…” He didn’t mention the pied-billed grebe in the poem, but he could have.

  5. You’ve given us an enlightening slant on a subject that must be new to most readers. The last picture sums things up so well; you must have been excited when you looked through the viewfinder.

    1. Sometimes excitement can be supplanted by a kind of creative panic. I’ve never seen light move so quickly, or change color so dramatically. Not knowing which camera settings would be best, I changed them multiple times in the process of taking the photos, and sorted through them later. That’s when I got excited.

      As it happened, I took these photos on the last day of my trip to the Pineywoods Native Plant Center to find the Winkler’s Gaillardia — last October. It was only a couple of months ago that I discovered the concept of komorebi, and that’s when things fell into place for the post. It was hard to sit on the photos all that time, but it was worth it.

    1. Sometimes, things do work out, don’t they? It was an amazing sight, and I’m glad that I was able to capture it as well as I did. Sometimes all you can do is grab the camera and shoot, and that’s when all those days of learning through shooting bad photos pay off.

  6. Such beauty in your words. Perhaps just as much as the beautiful images. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that colour orange in the beams of sunlight filtering through the trees before.

    I think dappled light doesn’t do justice to the actual images. The light is more extraordinary than that.
    I would be so excited to be in the presence of such an unworldly sight.

    1. From what I read about the science of it all, I think that several factors combined to produce the effect: the angle of the sun, the density of the drops, and so on. I wouldn’t have called this light ‘dappled,’ either. When I hear that word, I always think of a combination of light and shadows, but leafier, and less ray-like.

      After the fact, I was glad for all of my practice watching sunsets. I knew that the effect wasn’t going to last long, so I just crossed my fingers (at least metaphorically) and started shooting. It looks like I used aperture priority for all of the photos, with an ISO of 100, but aperture and shutter speed varied quite a bit, since I didn’t know what would work best. I’m glad to have captured the moment; I’ve spend a lot of time enjoying the images since then.

  7. Encountering “escaped sunlight filtering through leaves” in your photos is indeed quite enough.
    Amazing photos as well as a beautifully written education on elements of light.

    1. Every now and then I remember the old adage that the best way to learn is to teach. My corollary would be that a good way to learn is to blog; it took me a while to absorb enough of the physics behind this phenomenon to be able to write about it clearly, and without falling into off-putting complexity or jargon.

      Perhaps because of your latest camera ‘adventures,’ it occurred to me yesterday that the friend who was with me also took photos of this sunrise, but with her iPhone. I’m going to see if she kept the pictures; it would be interesting to compare her images with these. They might be as good, or even better — or they might not.

  8. What lovely photos and what moving prose! As I read, I thought of “sun dogs.” Do you remember them from your days north? Rainbows on each side of the sun, seen only on the coldest of winter’s days. Where I live now they are a rare occurrence, but I count them as a compensation for days when it is really to cold to be outside. And then, of course, there are the Aurora Borealis…

    1. Believe it or not, we see sun dogs here in Texas, too. There are days in winter when they’ll appear as far south as Houston (especially after a really strong cold front, when the upper atmosphere is even more frigid than ground level) but people in Dallas and the Panhandle sometimes get to see sights like this one in Amarillo. When I see them, they’re usually just the faint “side lights,” but I certainly do remember those dramatic ones from farther north.

      I’ve never seen the northern lights. They’re obviously rare here, although they were seen in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in 2011. A blogger who lived in Yellow Knife used to post photos and videos of them: beautiful and dramatic.

    1. Experiences like this can imprint themselves on our memories as surely as on a camera’s memory card. I doubt I’ll ever forget this morning: at least as long as my memory remains intact. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to share it with you.

  9. The words of both poets and physicists are needed to do justice to those beautiful light effects. I always remark when I see crepuscular rays. Sometimes there is a person to hear me.

    1. As I recall, my first words upon noticing what was happening were, “Oh, my.” I just looked in my files and found the email I sent to you asking about the color. I took the photos last October 10 and sent you the email on 10/28, so it’s been ten months of percolating for this one.

      You’d fit right in with a group of sky fans I’ve come across on Twitter. Their favorite hashtag is #opticallyphenomenal. This event certainly was that.

      1. I remember that email. When I read your post, I wondered ‘have I seen this post before?’. I’m glad you continued to ‘percolate’ on it.

        I check in on Twitter infrequently. @Jim_in_IA
        Things happen too fast there and are fragmented. It seems to take a lot of work.

        1. Honestly, I don’t understand it all, and have trouble following conversations. I don’t send tweets, and only follow seventeen mostly weather-related people and organizations, like @NWSHouston and various mets. It is a great way to follow breaking weather and emergency news.

          1. It is fast acting and fits on a phone screen. But, there is no depth. I agree, it is useful when there is a need for quick updates on breaking stories.

  10. I love the play of light in rays of sun through leaves or in dappled shimmering shades from water. Your words match master poets’ in eloquently describing the feelings we get from nature’s playful visions. And your photographs are remarkably perfect illustrations.

    1. Light and water create an entirely different world, don’t they? The reflections — and the sparkle — can be just as beautiful as these rays. I was so pleased to see this sunrise, and even happier to capture a bit of its beauty to share. This was my first trip to the east Texas pineywoods, and I’d forgotten what wonders a forest can hold.

    1. There are interesting things all around us, and there’s always something new to experience. Being able to learn about the experiences we have only increases the pleasure: or so I think. Thanks for stopping by, and commenting.

  11. These are beautiful photos, Linda. I would have been so transfixed by the shafts of light that they would have been gone before I had organized my camera. It is interesting that some languages are better at expressing certain feelings or phenomena than others. Komorebi seems to suit the light you saw.( My two favourite words for weather are Scottish; dreich and smirr.) Thank you for an enlightening slant on language and light.

    1. I hadn’t looked, but when I did, I found that the first photo in the series was taken at 8:22 a.m., and the last one at 8:26. Four minutes of glory — an eternity compared to the time available to capture a bird in flight, but still far less than the time I sometimes use fussing about with settings.

      ‘Smirr’ is a word I’ve encountered, and now that I’ve looked up ‘dreich,’ I think I might have come across that one, too. You might enjoy this list of untranslatable words. I was surprised to see ‘madrugada’ on the list; that’s one I’ve actually used in a blog post. I don’t know where I learned it, but it refers to one of my favorite times of day: the period after midnight but before first light.

    1. I’m pleased you think so, GP. Sometimes, I use images to take me back to experiences, and that helps to shape my words, I think. It was a beautiful few days, despite the rain, and in truth, the days of rain made the experience of the sunlight even more striking.

      Speaking of strikes — it seems you’ll be spared the direct hit that’s devastated Grand Bahama and others of the islands. I hope so, although it’s still such an iffy forecast.

  12. crepuscular

    Oh my, I thought, what a hideous word. I much preferred Godlight.

    In my career, I have read a great deal of computer code. Much of it ugly. Densely technical. Too technical, as if the writer tried as hard as possible to drive out any sense of what the thing was supposed to do. All function with utter contempt of form.

    But some was breathtakingly beautiful. Almost poetry. You could read the love of work and the awe of a fully grasped idea in every line.

    There is beauty in industry, sometimes even amid the ugliness. One could see this in the late afternoon and early morning in the steel foundry where I worked, as thick shafts of sunlight rooted themselves in the black sand of the casting floor and leaned hard against the sawtooth windows

    1. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “An older (and lovelier-sounding) adjective form was crepusculine (1540s).” I’m not sure that’s much better, and I don’t know why it changed, but I suppose we’re stuck with ‘crepuscular’ (and ‘anti-crepuscular’) now, for better or for worse.

      What you describe in terms of ugly computer code happens in certain kinds of writing, too. Words can be too dense, not to mention too technical. Academic writing comes to mind, as do the efforts of a lot of would-be popular writers. It’s easy to bury a point beneath piles of words.

      Your description of the shafts of sunlight in the foundry reminded me of my favorite study spot at the University of Iowa library. It was up in the stacks, and late afternoon sunlight would stream in through ceiling-high windows ranged along one wall. It’s strange, how remember that light brings back the scent of dust, and old books.

  13. “Gerard Manley Hopkins, who can pile up adjectives with the best of them” — spot on!

    I have to ration Dylan Thomas. His use of language makes my brain wriggle with delight, and there is a danger of overdose.

    Sunfingers combing through the trees.

  14. The images here are hauntingly beautiful, but I think I enjoyed all the vocabulary even more! Windfall light is a favorite, and I love the Japanese compilation of symbols for the phenomenon of the twilight sunrays. Shivelight does not appeal to me; all I can think of is a shiv whittled in prison; surely that word developed from shive! And even though I am no longer traditionally religious, I have always thought of those rays as Godlight of some sort, and I still do!

    1. When I found ‘shivelight,’ the first thing I did was check to see if ‘shive’ and ‘shiv’ are related. The short answer seems to be, “not exactly.” The Online Etymology Dictionary says this about ‘shiv’: “a razor, 1915, variant of ‘chive,’ thieves’ cant word for “knife” (1670s), of unknown origin.” Of course, the fact that a knife can be used to ‘shive,’ or slice off a thin piece, whether of bread or sunlight, makes the association reasonable, even if not etymologically sound. Language is such fun!

      There are certain sights that stir the soul, and rays like this are one of them. Whether in a cathedral or a woods, they do compel attention, and suggest a presence just beyond the limits of our comprehension.

  15. We always used to call this “a biblical sky” or “God rays” — you were just waiting for some big dog from the bible to pop down and present commandments or turn water into wine. (I wish.) I think I knew it had an official name but didn’t know it and I love the Japanese interpretation even more. Dappled works, too. When you see it through a forest it’s all the more dramatic. Your photos are just stunning and I can imagine how welcome this felt after the rain. Truly beautiful.

    1. Cecil B. Demille was no fool — he knew how to tap into some of our most widely shared associations, and how to shape a few in the process. The Biblical description of Moses being surrounded with a “crown of light” or “rays of light” as he came down from Mt. Sinai certainly made great film footage.

      It was interesting to learn a little about the Japanese writing system in the process of putting this post together, especially the history. I didn’t know that kanji were adopted from China, for example, or that at one time women and men used different forms of writing. At one point, I called a friend and asked her to ask Siri if learning the Japanese language is hard. She said Siri just laughed, but I suspect she (the friend, not Siri) was teasing.

  16. What an enjoyable feast of a post. I do not read much poetry, but when I read wonderful examples such as these I wish I’d find time to. The idea of lying under the trees enjoying the wind thrown light is just delicious, isn’t it? And of course the Japanese, with their reverence for woods, would have just the right way to describe the light in the trees wouldn’t they? As a visual artist, I am generally struck wordless by sights such as these beautiful rays.

    1. Every time I come across another article about ‘forest bathing,’ I laugh. Of course being in nature is good, and slowing down to appreciate the experiences that are possible in nature is even better, but there’s something about the recent spate of “professional bathing guides” who are willing (for a price) to guide people into nature that cracks me up. Americans seem able to commodify any experience in the world.

      I suppose the serious issue is that people have become so disconnected from nature they don’t have a clue how to engage with a woods or a stream, and feel as though they need someone to give them instructions. My friends and I give thanks for childhoods that let us roam as a matter of course: barefoot, sunburned, and scratched.

      I was thinking this weekend about differences other than those related to light that are part of the woods. Sounds certainly are different. I had no idea how loud the sound of a falling pine needle could be.

      1. Spending almost all of my time in the company of trees, I am always shocked by how noisy “civilization” is when I must go out into it. You’re right~when you are attuned to it, there are lots of wonderful sounds.

      2. I had considered offering forest walks as a trained naturalist/art instructor. I thought it would be cool to take groups out, talk a bit about the habitat we were in, and then teach them how to respond to what they were seeing with sketching and painting. It is sad how disconnected so many people are. It never came to anything though because the same forest preserve district whose praises I sing forbid it. I can see their point, not wanting a private citizen to profit from publicly held land. But still. I was disappointed.

        1. There’s a model for what you’re describing in Galveston. It’s called the Artist Boat, and it’s a wonderful group. You can read about what they’re doing here. They’re not only involved in direct conservation, they do all kinds of projects, from kayak-and-art trips, to birding, to decorating litter barrels used along the Galveston seawall and elsewhere. There’s a new bird blind they’ve just opened that I haven’t visited yet.

          Are there privately held lands where such activities already are going on in your area? or people you know who might be willing to open up their land to what you’ve envisioned? What about Nature Conservancy sites? Maybe you even could split the activities, taking people to the areas you enjoy, and then coming back to a different location for art work. It sounds like a wonderful idea, and one where you really could put your talents and experience to work.

          1. That is the coolest thing ever!!! Way beyond what I was considering. What an inspiration…thank you so much for the link.
            I’d cooked up the idea when I had a little gallery in town. Your suggestion is just what I thought~take them out on a nearby trail and chat about what we were seeing, and then take them back to the gallery to do art work. I also suggesting it to the powers-that-be to make it part of their programming. They weren’t interested.

  17. I’ll have to return to read more when I can concentrate a bit better, but for now let me just say that I love your photos. Oh and – you might like to know what my husband and I refer to those rays as ‘Blake Lines’.

  18. I’m grateful, as I have become such a poor correspondent, that you took time to visit my way, which prompted me to visit here. The photographs are beyond stunning, and I love the way you’ve woven in words that try to capture what you saw and shared here. I found the idea of escaped sunlight particularly appealing.

    1. I enjoy writing various sorts of posts, but I’ve always thought of posts like this as a sort of collage: bits and pieces of experience gathered from here and there and recombined in a new way. Then again, I’ve also thought of a kaleidoscope as a good metaphor. The pieces are there, just lying about. All that’s needed is to give them a “twist” and watch the new pattern emerge.

      I noticed tonight that the sun’s moved far enough south that it’s reflecting off the windows on the Hilton across the lake at sunset. It’s not exactly komorebi, but I’ll bet the Japanese have an equally felicitous term for it.

  19. “Sometimes, an encounter with escaped sunlight filtering through leaves is quite enough.” Absolutely true, Linda! And isn’t it interesting how we’ve all seen scenes similar to the ones you’ve depicted, but only YOU have taken time to explain them, discuss the science behind them, and embellish their beauty with poetry and metaphor? Thank you for doing the research and showing us that knowledge is power and doesn’t detract one iota from beauty!!

    1. That’s right. Knowledge and beauty; physics and poetry; science and art — they need one another, and we need them both. In the beginning, I didn’t know what I had seen. The beams of light were familiar, but when the color showed up, I was completely puzzled. I was glad I had a few scientists I could consult. Online sources are fine, but trustworthy experts are better — and I learned a good bit in the process.

      It’s no wonder writing a book takes so much time. This blog post took me ten months to put together!

    1. I never had heard of O’Reilly, but found her while looking for more information on komorebi. Needless to say, I was happy she’d used that as the title of her poem, and it was intriguing to browse more of her work.

      Nature’s good at reminding us that patience is a virtue, and that we never know what’s coming next. Sometimes that “something” can be a horror, as the people of the Bahamas are learning, but it’s important to remember that beauty and inspiration can come from nature’s hand, as well. It may be more subtle, but it’s there.

    1. What a great reference! I confess that poem hadn’t crossed my mind, despite its appropriateness. The one I was thinking of when I chose the title was this one:

      Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
      Success in Circuit lies
      Too bright for our infirm Delight
      The Truth’s superb surprise
      As Lightning to the Children eased
      With explanation kind
      The Truth must dazzle gradually
      Or every man be blind —

    1. Well, how nice to see you! I noticed you have a new post up, too. I’ll get there in time — it looks as though it might involve another “sky treat.”

      You’re right that some things take time: babies, a good spaghetti sauce, handmade furniture. Probably songs, too. Bolt-out-of-the-blue inspiration happens, but it’s not as common as people think. Annie Dillard nails it in The Writing Life:

      When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year.

    1. If I’d simply driven home in sunshine after days of rain, I might have been tempted to grump about a sort-of-spoiled vacation. But that sunrise was pure gift, and it cheered me right up. After all, if it hadn’t been for the rain, the conditions for the combination rays and corona wouldn’t have developed.

  20. Just mesmerizing. Capturing delicate quality of light is difficult.
    There’s a rose introduced into commerce in 1904 called Crepuscule. It’s a soft apricot color not unlike your last photo. And now I understand better it’s name!

    1. It’s a beautiful rose; I found some information and a photo here. I didn’t realize that the French word for twilight is crépuscule. The name makes sense. As the article points out, the rose’s color is reminiscent of sunset. I was interested to find the article was in an Australian publication. For no reason at all, I’ve never associated roses with Australia, but that’s clearly wrong.

  21. I am not sure but I feel those light reflections are more the domain of the Northern hemisphere. Perhaps tropical forests down south too offer this kind of magic. Australian native trees, especially the eucalypts have their leaves hanging down to offer as little surface as possible to the sun. They give less shade. You are right. these images are the poems of the forests.

    1. The first Australian/New Zealand trees that came to mind were the tree ferns. I suspect there would be plenty of dappled light where those are found, particularly since they’re understory plants that require those conditions. I’ve never thought about why eucalyptus trees arrange their leaves the way they do, but you’re right. They do hang down, and your explanation makes perfect sense.

      On the other hand, look at this photo taken near Melbourne. Komorebi, as I live and breathe!

  22. Your prose is particularly beautiful here, and those images are outstanding! Isn’t it just lovely to step into a sacred place in nature? It’s as if Universe was just waiting for the right person to come along and experience the glory for just a few moments.

    1. When I made this first trip to east Texas, I had no idea what to expect. I only knew that it would be quite a different environment from the coastal prairies and dunes of my area. That turned out to be true; there were different flowers, and trees I’d never seen. But no guidebook had mentioned shafts of sunlight — those were a complete surprise. I ask myself from time to time, “What’s happening here, that I’m not seeing.” It helps me remember to remain alert for whatever’s coming next.

    1. It was beautiful, and quite a surprise. To be honest, I was a little surprised that I was able to capture the event in a way that preserved some of the beauty. I’m not always so lucky, or so blessed.

  23. Totally enchanting, images and poet’s descriptions. Not surprised CS Lewis called it Godlight. The Japanese have a great capacity for language in its nuances. Thanks for giving me another one to use.

    1. It was a lovely experience, even though I’ve enjoyed it more after the fact because of the photos. ‘Godlight’ is quite a Lewis-like term, isn’t it? I’m fond of ‘dappled,’ too, but I certainly was pleased to discover ‘komorebi.’ I wonder if the Japanese have a different term for sunlight and shadow playing across sand dunes?

    1. Thanks, Curt. I was pleased with the photos as soon as I saw them, but I’m glad I let things simmer so that the words — especially komorebi — could get added to the pot. Where am I off to? Nowhere other than occasional weekend forays, as far as I know. A certain dentist and his sidekick, the oral surgeon, raided my discretionary income, so travel’s off the calendar: at least, for the time being.

      1. Double ouch on the dentist, the old injury to insult, Linda.
        When Peggy and I were driving back from Crater Lake on Thursday there had been a major thunderstorm which we fortunately missed. But there were several miles of the sun shining through the trees as in your photos. –Curt

        1. I’m glad you missed the storm, but post-storm landscapes can be gorgeous. We finally have had some tiny, scattered showers, with some tiny bits of regular rainbow to go with them. With another tropical critter (now sitting over the Bahamas, ironically) ready to move into the Gulf, we may have more rain on tap. That would be just fine, as along as it’s rain-without-a-name.

            1. Yep. When I saw Jim Cantore tweeting about our area, I filled the car with gas, checked the lines on the boat I’m working on, and made sure I had plenty of coffee on hand. Now, I’ve come home to discover we have Tropical Storm Imelda. I might head down to the coast this afternoon. There’s nothing like the approach of a nice, well-behaved tropical system to get the blood flowing.

            2. “There’s nothing like the approach of a nice, well-behaved tropical system to get the blood flowing.” Chuckling, Linda. I am at out local library since the power is out at our house (wind) and the library was just invaded by Middle schoolers, which is something like a tropical storm. So far they are behaving…

  24. Thank you for this fascinating discourse on a phenomenon most of us have experienced, yet none of us has been able to wrap in words. The description of your experience on that morning after the rains finally ended is pure poetry that melts on one’s tongue.
    I am sorry that your dreams of an autumnal respite did not come to fruition–maybe you will have another opportunity.
    Best,
    Tanja

    1. Well, as the Stones famously sang, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you find you get what you need…” My days in those woods weren’t as autumnal as I’d hoped, but they were a fine respite, with an even better conclusion. And, as I’m sure you know, one of the best reasons to write about such experiences is to relive them — or even to live them more fully, in retrospect.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the piece, both the words and the images.

  25. Very nice treatise on light and the various prismatic effects that air’s moisture can have on it. I always enjoy chasing the sun through the boughs, capturing starbursts and seeking color. You’ve captured some great example of some of the phenomena and a big WOW for the last shot.
    You’ve obviously done some excellent research and that may have included one of my favorite light books, “The nature of Light and Colour in the open air“.

    1. I hadn’t heard of that book you linked to, but it looks interesting. I started trying to figure this all out with my go-to site, Atmospheric Optics. Then, once I had my hypothesis, I emailed Jim Ruebush, who confirmed the crepuscular/corona combo, and then, much later, a fellow here in Houston introduced me to ‘komorebi.’ Once I started researching that, I found the poem, and here we are.

      The most magical moment was when the light first began taking on color. I’m accustomed to seeing colors build and shift in the clouds, or seeing rainbows appear, but this was quite different. Thinking about it now, it reminds me of the color wheels people used to use with a light, to change the colors of their aluminum Christmas trees. (No, we didn’t, but I knew people who did.)

  26. Crepusculars are a dream for any photographer. I have encountered them many a time, and they create almost a magical time around sunset or sunrise, as you point out. I like the word komorebi. It surely sounds more poetic.

    1. They are magical — so unpredictable, and so beautiful. I was reading a bit about the history of halos in art, and it’s clear that our human fascination with the phenomenon goes back a long, long, time.

  27. I enjoyed the images immensely, and the ‘Atmospheric Optics’ website is superb. I had no idea it existed. I liked reading about scientific reasons which explain atmospheric phenomena. Your images and the poetry are also fascinating!

    1. I’ve used the Atmospheric Optics site for years; I’m glad to introduce you to it. It’s great fun just browsing the entries. The photos are marvelous, and the information is well-written and accessible. Another site I love belongs to the Cloud Appreciation Society. There are marvelous photos of clouds, but also art, poetry, and music contributed by members. I’ve always meant to join but never have — I need to do that.

  28. These photographs are so beautiful, Ma’am – a nature lover’s delight! I can imagine how awestruck one would feel to just stand and stare as this sight unfolds before you. And your exposition on komorebi is a delightful read – a flowing poetry of liquid words. Thank you for sharing!

    1. You’re welcome. It was quite an experience: one I certainly never had imagined. As you know so well from observing your birds, there are times when we wait for something to occur, and times when we’re completely surprised. This was a surprise, and I’m glad I was able to capture some of its beauty to share.

  29. What beautiful pictures, and excellent poems you shared- but I’m most struck by what a stunningly well crafted blog post this is- SO enjoyable to read- excellent work!

    1. It can be hard to condense so much information into a readable post. I suppose in a very real sense, that’s the ‘crafting’ that’s involved. I sometimes think of posts like this as a collage: finding the links among apparently disconnected things is the trick. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    1. I’m glad, Dina. It certainly was a wonderful experience, and one I doubt I’ll have again in this lifetime. That’s one reason I’m glad I was able to get some photos — for my own memories, as well as for sharing.

  30. I’ve always loved the look of shafts of light in the woods. The last image is particularly beautiful, with the different colors, a phenomenon I’ve not noticed. “Waldeneinsamkeit” is something I treasure. I’m reminded of Mary Oliver, who wrote in an essay or poem that “I’d really have to love you to take you with me when I walk in the woods” (or something like that).

    1. What you remembered is an Oliver poem that’s titled “How I Go to the Woods.” I’ve had it tucked into my files for some time, intending to use it in a post about the piney woods of east Texas. It really is great, especially her line about “smilers and talkers.”

      The interplay of light and shadow can be delicate or dramatic. I love it, especially on water, and especially in the woods. The piney woods are such a different world than the prairies, and many of the differences are so subtle they’re hard to notice until you’ve hung around for a while. This phenomenon certainly wasn’t hard to notice; I’m just glad I was able to preserve a shadow of that light.

  31. I so enjoyed this tribute to the wonders of light on our planet, Linda. The mysteries of light have thrilled humans through the ages, and your quotes and thoughts about it here were pleasing to read. Sometimes it is really difficult to photographically capture the magnificence of light, but your photos here were superb. Wonderful post, as always.

    1. Some of the most fascinating aspects of nature — fire, water, light — are a like in the sense that they’re both always the same and always changing. I suspect that’s why we find them so compelling. It’s also part of why they’re so hard to capture in images. That perfect moment is always just on the verge of appearing or already fading. I was very, very lucky with these images, in a number of ways, and I’m grateful. It pleases me that you enjoyed the post, too.

    1. I don’t know many people who don’t appreciate the interplay between light and shadow, or the shifting colors of sunrise and sunset. Most of the time, it comes and goes, and the magic fades. I was more than lucky to capture these images, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t remind some people of other, equally magical times in their own lives.

      1. Aren’t you lucky! I know plenty of people who don’t pay attention the “interplay between light and shadow…” You have a wonderful following, so deserved based on the magic, the writing, the photography and all that is your special blog. I was thinking of you last night because I am reading May Sarton at your suggestion along the way. Her journals are real and forthcoming, quite addicting. Anyway, hope all is well with you. Kayti continues to hang in there and amaze.

        1. I’m so glad you picked up Sarton, and I’m glad you’ve found her journals worthwhile. I have a couple more of her books I’ve not yet opened, but one day I will. (The to-be-read list continues to grow…) All’s good here, but it will be better once the heat breaks. Even though a hot September is normal enough, we do tire of it by the end.

          1. Sarton surely struggled with depression. I wonder why she isolated herself. Hope the heat broke. I’ve been away for three weeks and am just catching up on bills and reading. Glad to know you are well.

            1. I just found news of your trip this morning. What a wonderful experience that must have been! And we have the blessing of beautiful weather — the first of a series of cold fronts came through yesterday, and it’s almost unbearably pleasant outside. Finally!

            2. I’m so glad the weather has broken. I have friends in Livingston, MT who told me that there will be a 40 degree drop in temps tomorrow…from 60-20 and here in the Bay Area, PGE is turning off our power for 2-5 days. How they can get away with this I do not know. Our little generator will be busy…just in time for my birthday. Happy upcoming birthday to you.

            3. If you don’t know the site Wildfire Today,, it’s a great non-governmental resource for all things fire related: particularly wildfires and events like the PG&E planned outage. He’s got a Twitter account, too, and that’s how I keep up with what’s happening in your area.

              When’s your actual birthday? I need to know when to send felicitations!

    1. Thank you so much. It certainly is true that with the right light even a sewer can be beautiful (yes, I peeked at your blog) but I was lucky to have something more naturally pleasing than a sewer as a starting point!

  32. Your lovely images plus thoughts of Hopkins remind me that sunlight through leaves has a pied beauty.

    We lose from living when words and language are so highly regulated, grammar reinforces insiders vs outsiders, and new coinage is discouraged. I often wonder how a writer like Shakespeare would have fared. I’m not sure you could get away with rewriting a King Leir into a King Lear today from several different angles, and that should give us pause.

    1. It’s occurred to me more than once that sunlight and shadows never are a constant, either. They’re constantly shifting and rearranging themselves, just like language.

      As for the regulation of language, I nearly hyperventilated when I read about the Oxford Junior Dictionary removing nature-related words. When I recently read about the woman who’s begun a petition to get Oxford to eliminate words for ‘woman’ that she considers offensive, I thought once again about Humpty Dumpty, and his prescient words in Through the Looking Glass: “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

    1. I will confess early morning photos seem even more fun when early isn’t quite so early. When the sun was coming up here before 6 a.m., it was harder to get out. In the fall and spring, with 7 a.m. sunrise, it’s better. I’m glad you liked these. They’re some of my favorite photos.

    1. Thom, the music you share has delighted me so often; it pleases me that you found something here to be an equal delight. This is one of those posts that I’ve come back to a few times. It was an extraordinary morning, and the sort of thing that never will be repeated in just this way: nature riffing on leaves and light, if you will!

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