Gathering Light

Today you are something similar to a beachcomber. You are a "lightcomber."

So began the instructions for Monday’s Game of the Day in Julian and Mary Rose O’Reilley’s workshop, "Living the Prayer of Improvisation," at the 2006 Gathering. Until 9 am Tuesday, we were to "look for Light and only for Light, no matter what name it may come under."

I went Lightcombing in the Sparkling Lemonade Art Gallery, recalling a statement my watercolor teacher made back home: "All an artist paints is light—not objects, but the fall of light upon them." I gazed on bold red and gold amid black and royal blue in a collage by Caroline Wildflower; on lavender, rose, ochre, and blue-gray behind silhouetted rocks in Chris Willard’s photo "Rialto Beach Sunset"; on the salmon-pink color in a little girl’s dress and in the border of her white parasol echoing the cherry blossoms in Cynthia E. Kerman’s "Japanese Garden."

"Even shadows gather light," I once wrote in a poem inspired by my teacher’s comment. In the gallery, I "combed" for the light breaking through windows of abandoned houses in photographs from the senior thesis of Emily Richardson, who died in an auto accident at age 23; in a post-9/11 stoneware sculpture by Gyllian Davies entitled "After . . . ," in which five bone-white angels holding golden boxes ride a boat across a block of charred wood; in the bright yellow behind a red-streaked, dark green bud in Paula Draper’s mixed media "Iraqi Spring," the square acrylic painting draped in sheer black net.

Here are a few names by which Light is sometimes identified: gentleness, innocence, goodwill, lightheartedness, kindliness, joy.

That evening, the international folk dance series featured "Dances of Universal Peace." In one dance, we moved in a circle, holding our clasped hands high—imagining the candles we would hold if we were doing this dance in Armenia. In another Light-filled dance, we each faced one other person, joined hands as partners, and circled left, then right, as everyone sang, "All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you." Then, with arms held high, we twirled and moved to a new partner, singing Aramaic words with the same meaning. The pattern repeated until each of us had danced with, and sung to, everyone else.

For one day, you are not interested in guilt, grievances, conflict, fear, or judgments.

Of course, I understood that the O’Reilleys’ game was not about literal light in art, nor virtual light in imagined candles. Between my visit to the gallery and joining the dance, I had other occasions to comb for spiritual Light. Through phone calls, a certain local cause for concern had followed me and a few others of my meeting to the Gathering. We held hurried conversations about the problem.

You do not attack the evidences of darkness.

To do that is to collect darkness. You will merely overlook them as you would overlook seaweed if your purpose was to find shells.

The Game of the Day helped me to direct my gaze away from dark patches in the situation and to envision, instead, Light falling upon everyone involved. The artist paints not only sunlight but also the light that sifts through shadows and illuminates the reality that the shadows touch. Lightcombing works.