Monday, June 21, 2010

Chapter Twelve - Part One - Summer Solstice

The longest days of the year are filled with light, but is it only material light? If it is material light then it can be taken away. We can grasp at these long days and wish for them to stay, but the earth continues her yearly sojourn around the sun, and the days will begin to dwindle in just a short time. The temporary nature of our joy, our light is always present even at its zenith. Thus, we celebrate to imprint the moment in our memory so that it shant be forgotten even in our darkest hour.

One day, someday, this empty field will be filled with ripening peaches at summer solstice. Today, however, I celebrate its rich, dark soil, empty but for a cover crop of rye grass. The rye was so green last week, and already I can imagine it tinged with gold. The smell of the earth is intoxicating to me today. It reminds me inextricably of childhood days that rambled along so slowly as I gazed out the window of my Pretty Pa's truck chewing on Double-Mint gum, and flying through the wind on the palm of my hand. Time flies by for us, and for fields, and so it shall be for my orchard.

When we plant an orchard we may only imagine the end result, those lovely, sweet peaches, perfectly ripe only for a few weeks every year. There are vast stretches of time before and after those peachy moments, and are they less important to us because they give us nothing to hold onto? Is it all anticipation and waiting then for those moments, those solstice-like moments in our lives where light is pronounced and shadows are long? Do we only pay attention to those experiences that are the extreme of the contrast? The empty days or the full days? The miserable days or the happy ones?

In fact, nature begs us to look closely at the in-between days. Our participation in the growing of plants goes back at least ten thousand years. Yet, even before that there were peaches, of course. Somehow we knew when to harvest the plenty of this world as we went, and my guess is it was specifically by paying attention, by being attuned, by awareness of the subtle changes of light and dark.

What does this have to do with writing then? It has everything to do with writing, especially writing screenplays. What are films but expressions of light and dark? The subtle changes of light on a character can reveal more than a packed bunch of words spewing from his mouth. Sometimes I regret the invention of "talkies" at all because I guess that I believe that the refinement of film will only come with the masterful use of light and dark as external reflections of the interior life of a character.

When we fail to understand the non-material light and dark in our lives by our own means, the external expression of a bald light bulb in an empty, windowless room can spell it out. Material light can locate those hard to reach spaces in our hearts, and the absence of that material light can fill us with the same fright as the darkest ego-driven thoughts we carry. Harsh shadows or soft glow can illuminate the subtleties of the emotional journey we take in this physical existence...not everyday is long, but each day and each kind of light is precious.

Today, as the rye grass waves shiny in the glorious light, not knowing its fate tomorrow when it will be harvested and plowed under, it reaches for the sun with innocent abandon. A moment of triumph that will fade as quickly as it came. The kid in the old pick-up truck leans as far out of the window as she can to run her hand over their tawny heads that look so silky and soft. Light floods the scene until the screen is a flash of white...

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