Light breaks where no sun shines; Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart Push in their tides; And, broken ghosts with glow-worms in their heads, The things of light File through the flesh where no flesh decks the bones.
A candle in the thighs Warms youth and seed and burns the seeds of age; Where no seed stirs, The fruit of man unwrinkles in the stars, Bright as a fig; Where no wax is, the candle shows its hairs.
Dawn breaks behind the eyes; From poles of skull and toe the windy blood Slides like a sea; Nor fenced, nor staked, the gushers of the sky Spout to the rod Divining in a smile the oil of tears.
Night in the sockets rounds, Like some pitch moon, the limit of the globes; Day lights the bone; Where no cold is, the skinning gales unpin The winter’s robes; The film of spring is hanging from the lids.
Light breaks on secret lots, On tips of thought where thoughts smell in the rain; When logics dies, The secret of the soil grows through the eye, And blood jumps in the sun; Above the waste allotments the dawn halts.
Light? What is gentle and beautiful about light? Light is a harsh thing, the kind of thing that sent Dylan Thomas off on long rants. When you have to deal with harsh tropical light all the time, you envy photographers in parts of the world where the sun slants down and filters through a thick layer of air to drip its soft light on things. They can keep their fatuous sunbeams. We know what sunlight is: a killer.
Midwinter’s light in Thailand (the featured photo) is so harsh that it has to be filtered through leaves to yield a photo with shadows. Compare that to the similar photo from the Camargue in the south of France. The contrast is less harsh as you go away from the equator. The mangoes and jasmine buds photographed yesterday in my balcony have to compensate for harsher light than the gentle summer light of Europe.
Living my days out in an air conditioned office in Mumbai, I’d concluded that Mumbai has only two seasons: uncomfortable and wet. Now that I’m forced to live at home, and I spend more time in the balcony, and open up the living room to the outside, I realize that was wrong. Even in this coastal city, there are seasons, although strongly moderated by the warm tropical sea. The many different Indian calendars roughly agree about the seasons. So across the northern end of the peninsula, closer to the mountains, and away from the sea, there is are climatic changes which can be recognized from east to west. It is different along the coast, of course, and down in the southern part of the peninsula there are very different climates and seasons. Mumbai lies roughly in between, so one can feel most of these variations if one is sensitive to it.
Looking out of the window, listening to the birds, I saw signs of vasant slowly passing. The bees which hummed between trees and bushes, are slowly less visible now that spring has passed. The last flowers of the season can still be seen (the featured photo). The sky was as mild as the morning’s cool breeze. The beautiful light blue, which I used to paint as a child, flecked with fluffy clouds are typical of this season which just passed.
Locked down at home, there is time to look out at the world around me, even with the (literally) hundreds of emails that I need to assign to the “read” folder every day. That’s what life must have been like to the new humans of a million years ago: hunt all day and sit and look around you the rest of the time; no rushing about, so no need to constantly look at watches. The result is that I re-discovered ancient means of time-keeping. There is the quick passing of the day, the sunrise which now wakes me up, the change in the quality of light through the day, and the sunset, full of alarmed birds calling loudly.
But there is a longer passing of time, which I’d not paid much attention to earlier. It is still early in spring time, and I can see the earth slowly wobble in its daily rotation. As a result, the sunset is still moving northwards. I live in a city, so the horizon is interrupted by tall buildings. I’ve been noticing how the sunset was first blocked by one building, before I had a clear view, and now another building is slowly coming in the way. Lucky me. If I didn’t have these buildings I might have had to start hauling large blocks of stones around to build my own calendar.
I woke this morning to the definite feeling that spring was here in full bloom. My nose was blocked, my eyes were watering. Hay fever, means pollen, means flowers. This is definitely not the virus, but my own body reacting to spring. It’ll have passed by mid morning. In my balcony the jasmine plant had begun to flower, the little white vincas are in bloom. In a little patch of ground below the flat I can smell the parijat, the night flowering jasmine. Looking out over the garden in front of us, the banyan tree is full of fruit, the mango tree is bursting into bloom, there are red coral flowers on top of a sea of green. In the mountains the musk rose, the peony, daffodils, must be in bloom. I stood on our balcony and stared at the deep blue sky flecked with clouds. I’ve never seen Mumbai look so beautiful. Today is a bad day, I can’t keep my mind from thinking of traveling up to the mountains, walking in the open.