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Red Willow Spirit: All the Colors of the Light

They say the spectrum holds all the colors of the light; our mere human eyes are merely incapable of distinguishing most of them. In the natural world, seeing the rainbow is generally the closest we get to perceiving their range and diversity, banded in a luminous, intensely-hued arc that manages to be spectral in more ways than one.

But here, the colors decline to confine themselves to the rainbow: Here at Red Willow, all the colors of the light lend their hues to the very earth and sky.

And at no time is that more true than in these months we call summer.

Oh, I know the calendar insists that it is still spring; we have sixteen days yet before the Solstice. But it is ninety degrees, and the day is still young; in a year devoid almost entirely of winter and mostly of spring in its appointed time, too, the monsoonal patterns that characterize the summer months have been here for some time, if only around the edges. We have had long had the thunderheads, the winds and the rapid-fire temperature inversions, even the scent of rain on the air, although precious little has fallen thus far. And while the spring light holds the spirit of renewal, autumn’s, one of shimmering magic, and winter’s, its own stark beauty, summer is the season of the full spectrum of light.

The images featured come from a day somewhere around the midpoint of summer some six years ago. Day’s end, to be precise, as we were getting the last of the hay in, racing to beat the weather. It had just begun to rain — not much, just a slight sprinkle — and the day’s intense heat meeting the cool air and mist danced with the clouds in the light of the setting sun. Wings captured these three images just seconds apart, the same exact shot taken three times, all unretouched by filters or photo editors.

In the first moment, the sun was just high enough for the green of the fields to be visible, peaks and clouds alike shades of gold and amber and palest coral against a blue-gray sky.

Another moment passed, and the sun had dropped low enough to leave field and fence thoroughly in shadow: hay no longer precisely green, fence neither quite brown nor quite gray. A hint of green remained visible on the mountain slopes, but gold and amber and shades of dusky blue were the order of the moment.

And so it is with the light in this place at any time, but it is perhaps most perceptible in summer, when the light lasts longest. It is only perceptible, however, to those with enough patience and awareness to sit still and witness it, to see the path it carves between the shaded places, to watch the lengthening and then foreshortening of the shadows that embrace it. At sunset, our world here is awash in golden light, but it is a reversal of dawn’s trajectory: Instead of spilling farther and wider across the land, it erases itself with subtle but stunning efficiency, and before one knows it, the indigo hours have descended.

And so it was with the third moment, the third click of the shutter.

By now, the green was less a hint than a memory, an echo that rippled slowly beneath the visual surface of the land. Slopes moved from brown to burgundy, the rocky outcroppings improbably coral and rose in the waning light. Red earth and purple skies: the palette of a desert dusk, painting across a miniature spectrum of reds and blues, incorporating coral and rose and violet and indigo into its finished work.

A work as timeless as the cosmos, yet that lasted only a split second.

On that evening, that was enough. The world was our rainbow, in all the colors of the light.

~ Aji







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