a certain Slant of light


sun shining through stained glass  (stockphotosforfree.com via flickr)

There’s a certain Slant of light, (320)


There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –
None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –
When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –
winter sunset
winter sunset

I love this poem by Emily Dickinson.  The images and words hold so much meaning for me.

The certain Slant of light — is very difficult to catch in a photograph.

Especially in winter.

I often try, though.

This was taken in rural Indiana during a gentle snow in December of 2012.
I love the muted colors:  the blues and greys and the dull red of the barn.
The photograph doesn’t capture the beauty I saw that day, however.
This was another year, another snowfall and another attempt to catch the lovely light of a wintery afternoon.
We had had a substantial snowfall, so my husband and I took a drive out to the country roads in our area to see if we could capture a lovely scene.
I have visited many cathedrals during my lifetime.  Each has a unique feel;  a certain quality of light and space and sound.
More from the Koln Dom -- stained glass
More from the Koln Dom — stained glass
Koln Dom main entry and spires
Koln Dom main entry and spires

I don’t find the light oppressive like Cathedral tunes.

Cathedral tunes — which I take to mean huge pipe organs and wonderful choirs — are joyous and beautifully heart-wrenching but not oppressive.

The Heavenly Hurt is something that I often feel, and that I have come to understand.

stained glass window in the National Cathedral in DC
stained glass from the National Cathedral in DC
light National Cathedral, DC
National Cathedral, DC

This poem comes closest to explaining the Heavenly Hurt for me:

(I apologize for using poetry to explain poetry, but it makes sense to me.)


by Anne Porter

When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother’s piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

I’ve never understood
Why this is so

But there’s an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.

Not white, not on moss -- but a violet, sill!
Not white, but it is a violet on moss!

I added the italics for emphasis.  What lovely imagery!  Porter describes that feeling of desolation/homesickness/joy/sorrow that so often comes when I hear/sing/play/experience beauty so well.

Tolkien describes this feeling, too:   both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords.

He was talking about the realm of Faerie, but I think the feeling is real and is very much a part of our lives here on earth.

The full quote:  “Faerie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold…The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveller who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Impatient for blooms

It usually happens in February.  I get the urge to make a quilt using wild and crazy colors and/or a wild and crazy pattern.  I eagerly await the emergence of Spring flowers.  It seems to take forever.  Every single year.  I am an impatient resident of winter.  It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the beauty of winter — I do!  But by the time February rolls around, my eyes are feeling deprived of color and of sun.


One of my favorite “Spring” poems is this one:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

BY A.E. Housman

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.


I am about a few decades older that the person in this poem. I most likely don’t have even 50 more springs to see the branches “hung with snow” — with those lovely white and fragrant blooms.
I certainly plan to enjoy each and every spring (and every moment of every day!) for all the years I have left to live.

I love taking photographs of flowers.
I love all kinds of flower, but I seem to gravitate to roses, spring blooms and to day lilies.
I even take pictures of flowers in vases and pots that I happen to have at home.

I took a few pics of the potted hyacinths and tulips I bought this week (Valentine gifts for my two teenagers).

Here are some of my favorites from other seasons and times (all taken by me):

I just found these beautifully inspiring Big Blooms by Paul Lange today. Please follow the link to see Lange’s photographs. It is worth a look.


As a prominent fashion photographer for 25 years, Paul Lange has had his photographs featured in such publications as Vogue, Glamour and Elle. It was only eight years ago that he decided to make the switch to Fine Art photography, using the skills he had acquired in fashion to create his own original series. Big Blooms, which was started back in 2007, is a series that gives us a fresh new appreciation for flowers. He calls it Big Blooms because his photos of the flowers are blown up or as he says, “thrown out of scale.” With every single portrait, he takes into account lighting, line, form and composition, using the same approach he’s used in portraiture or fashion.
–quote from the blog by alice on mymodernmet.com

Thoughts for the Journey

I didn’t grow up with Lent. I’m not sure I even really knew what Lent was until at least college, possibly even after college. After we moved to Wisconsin, however, we ended up being Lutherans. I learned more about what Lent was then, but I still always thought of it as more of a Catholic “thing.” But since I was an active organist/pianist during those years at the ELCA church, I was intimately involved in the service music for each season. As I played, I learned. I learned about the liturgical seasons and colors. I learned about special days like Christ the King, All Saints, Epiphany and more. (For instance, one perk of being the organist is that you sometimes get to eat the leftover communion bread — usually homemade! — and drink the wine since it can’t be thrown away.)

During the “Lutheran years” I learned to love Lent.

Lent is a journey.
It has never been about giving something up for me.
It isn’t about denial (in my opinion).
It is about seeking something out.
It is about the mysteries of grace and love.
It is about the people with whom we share this journey on earth.

One of my favorite movies is Chocolat. If you’ve never seen the movie, I won’t spoil it for you — but it does a wonderful job of letting us live one season of Lent through various people’s eyes in a small village in France. If you have time, I highly recommend watching it. I also highly recommend that you have some very good quality chocolate to eat while you watch it! You’ll see why.

I’m considering a couple of ways to honor this Lenten season.
I found them on Fat Pastor’s blog. One is taking 40 photos, one a day through Lent.

Photo a day for Lent — from UMC rethink church

The other is writing handwritten notes to people, also one a day for 40 days.
I will be behind on either choice, I’m sure — once I decide which to do.
That’s just how I roll.

Maybe I’ll do a little of each?

40 notes in 40 days from Fat Pastor blog