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Monday Photo Meditation: The Sun Still Casts Its Light Upon the Land

The last week of September, and the warmth and light are both fading fast now.

It seems somehow fitting, in this week that will mark one of many small ends embedded within the larger year, a year that has been caught in the twinned death grips of drought and pandemic, with the latter mostly unnecessary but no less deadly for that.

Today, the clouds are encroaching already, skies a pale washed-out gray, none of the brilliant golden light that usually marks this time of year present to cast shadows across the land. The air has grown cold, unseasonably so, while we wait for the promised rain . . . even as we know that such promises are often hollow now, as the storms detour or spin out entirely, spent by their own internal force before they ever reach us.

It’s a melancholy day in many ways, and the grayness, the lack of golden light, seem to suit it especially well.

This week will be . . . well, perhaps not melancholy for the peoples whose opinion of it matters, but certainly different once again. The Pueblo remains closed to the outside, and rightly so; the colonial population proves daily that it cannot be trusted to take even the most minimal steps demanded by decency or any sense of community or care to protect anyone at all, never mind the most vulnerable population from whom it has stolen so much, and continues to take so much more. At last word, it will remain closed through the Feast of San Geronimo, this Wednesday and Thursday, for the second year in a row, its opening to the public in recent generations now another casualty of the pandemic. That’s not to say it won’t still be celebrated, but it will occur only within the walls, only among the people themselves.

The current light may be dull and wan, but it is casting long shadows indeed.

And yet, as the image above shows, the light falls upon an ancient earth, from the homes that have stood a thousand years and more to the timeless peaks that rise behind them. The pole, erected each year for the feast, seems purposefully to catch and hold the light, to set itself at a perfect angle to the plaza beneath . . . itself a kind of golden mean, catching the late-day light and turning it into medicine before dark.

Wings captured that image, and the ones that will follow tomorrow, too, on an autumn afternoon nine years ago. It was a month later in the season that it is now, October’s end, and yet the ravages of climate change have delivered shades of gold and amber and gray to us now; by the end of October, only the gray is likely to remain.

The pole will stand for several weeks yet after this, a reliable indicator of change in the angle of the light as winter encroaches. But there is another golden mean that survives year-round, present in this image too: the gilding of the ancient walls, red clay set aflame like molten amber, the mica shimmering from within, turning plain adobe walls into the fabled city of gold.

It’s a development that would prove to have deadly results all across this land, and yet, it’s also a gift in and of itself, a reminder in the coldest depths and shortest days of winter that the sun still casts its light upon the land, still warms our walls and faces and illuminates our path.

Today, of course, such a statement requires a bit more faith than is usual now. The gray has overtaken the skies entirely, and the chill air is heavy with anticipation of still-heavier weather; there is no golden mean of any sort in sight, and no real sunlight, either.

But the rain, if it comes, will be the most welcome gift we could receive now, and it feels like proof: “proof,” in the old meaning of the word; the exception that “proves” the rule. Despite the cold gray skies, dawn’s arrival ever later and dusk’s ever earlier, we know that the sun still casts its light upon the land, still giving us a golden mean to inhabit no matter the weather or season.

~ Aji








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