Photons Magnificent

This time nine years ago, the world was a different place. I was a different man. I was hardly a man at all; I was still a boy, draped in juvenile dreams, believed of a world that didn’t exist, or instead existed beneath the tide of the world we lived in. Mythologies were ripening inside me, thousands of stories stirring, yearning to get out.

It was somehow pristine, yet thoroughly in the dark.

I remember it clearly. Oh so very clearly.

It was December. The fourth rings a bell. It was morning, sunny perhaps. Then it was afternoon and the rain poured down. By evening, maybe it was snowing. In the streetlamps, it might have looked like snow anyways. Finally it was past nightfall and I was in bed, sleeping. There were flashes of blue lightning outside. There was the sound of snapping bones all around me. Something stirred and I awoke.

I listened as the creaks and cracks came, followed by the low rumble and resounding thud of trees falling in the woods around us. I crawled from my bed, acknowledging offhandedly the darkness I walked through (no lights, no electric whir–just remarkable and impenetrable silence). I could discern the familiar contours of the hall, feel the familial feel of the cold linoleum on my feet, find my way from my bedroom to the kitchen, into the living room.

My parents were both awake.

For a while (surely it was only a few minutes) we spoke of words inconsequential. I think I got a drink of water. I recall staring out the windows over the backyard and witnessing the white world bathed in moonlight: The light scintillated over the encapsulated trees like diamonds and vessels of the purest nectars, frozen by the will of the gods, adorned in wonders far-reaching and unimaginable. The blood-wrenching sound echoed around us, a cry of ethereal chimes reverberating in the distance as ice shattered around the fallen dryad…. The shaking earth returned to us the final mournful pangs of a life torn limb from limb. We watched. We witnessed.

Something touched me, not in a physical sense, neither in one emotional nor mental; but somehow precognitive. I could sense it before I sensed it, could feel it coming before I realized what I was feeling… I turned toward the door and watched, waited. For one long moment the sound was thunderous and the shaking profound. Something fell. It shook the house. It trembled inside me. It found its way to vibrations on a scale I had not known before.

We stood in silence for a moment. The pictures hanging on the walls were all now hanging crooked and askew. I can’t remember who moved first, or if we went to the door first, or if we went into the study first. But soon, soon enough we knew the culprit: A massive tree, oak I believe, once on the other side of the driveway, had fallen over the house, landed across the carport and punctured a hole in the roof above the ceiling above us.

If not for the van that we’d had parked in the driveway, if not for that totaled golden thing that had caught the tree as it fell, it would have gone right through the carport and into the living room where we all were. Instead, the damage was minimal, but the memories amazing.

Shortly thereafter I went back to bed.

In the morning, the power remained out. In fact, for most of the state, the power was out. Some areas were even without power for weeks (such as where I live now). We lit a fire in our living room and for a few days, that’s where we lived. I read books lying on the living room floor, books about Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings. I went through boxes and boxes of papers and burned all those I had no wish to keep. I charted elements and crafted new symbols for this burgeoning mythos inside me. I curled up by the fire and wrote in my journal, to Shadow and Derek and Isabelle and all the other mythical entities I had met in my mind, and I rewrote miniscule stories into adventures, word for word drafted by hand amid firelight and sunlight.

Finally it was the last day of Chanukah. We were all gathered around the kitchen table singing prayers and lighting candles when a drone erupted from nowhere and the heater clicked on. Lights flickered to life. And outside, starlight was merged with streetlight and once more, our own world was awake with electricity and modernity. We moved our things back to our bedrooms. We returned to life as we knew it.

But for those three days, we had shared something, a communal living, each of us on our own, yet together; all of us individuals, but part of a remarkable whole, unhindered by technological distractions and adherence to schedules and televisions and game consoles and computers and alarm clocks, waking by the sun and falling by the moon…. For whatever it was worth, it was worth so much more to me.

Today, this year, the last day of Chanukah came uneventfully, quietly, distracted by housework and rearranging things and video games, reading, and graphic design. By the time I got to bed this morning around six o’clock, it finally dawned on me that I hadn’t written this final post in my Chanukah series–this final post I have been waiting to write since the first, the culmination of this miraculous holiday and all the miracles we commemorate by celebrating it.

In the end, I’m no less thankful than I was yesterday for this final installment, for light. It’s miraculous how microscopic, nonphysical waves commingle and create something as stupendous as a photon, massless but amazing, the precursor of all existence in the universe.

The Festival of Light. For eight days each winter, in the darkest sphere of the year, we witness the growing light before us, lighting candles (reactions between carbon and oxygen, synthesizing water vapor amd carbon dioxide in an explosive display of radiant prowess) and watching (letting those emitted photons pass between our irises and strike our retinas, spawning sparks that run across our nerves, into our brains, where images are formed and shaped and colored into reality) and just existing in this state of light and transcendence.

It may only be once a year that we celebrate the light for all its awesome (when we need that last reminder the darkness will fall to the perseverance of light, when we need that extra ounce of warmth to combat the cold, when we need to be told that even the smallest sparks can grow into the greatest wildfires with a little direction and strong enough intent, to craft miracles and write history and change lives), but it’s every day when I feel sunshine on my skin, when I see colors in every face, when I stay up late beneath the incandescent glow of electrons rushing through metal fibers that I’m thankful for light.


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