You’ve seen this particular wall with this particular graffiti before. But when I was strolling around town killing time before meeting Kathleen the other night, I couldn’t resist taking this picture of the same old same old. It was around 6:30 pm when I took this picture, you see; this particular blue-painted, graffitied wall faces east, away from the setting sun. The patches of light you see on Mr. Extraordinary and the far boarded window are reflections of the setting sun bounced from the windows of the building next door: some sort of architectural eclipse whereby the shape of neighboring windows is mapped not directly but via the intercept of reflection and shadow.

These days my eye is irresistibly attracted to line, light, and shadow. In high school I was fascinated by geometry and trigonometry, by the regular predictability of angles proven and known. In my high school Physics class my teacher sensed my proclivities and lent me an old spherical trigonometry textbook over which I spent many an inexplicable late night hour: while other teenage girls had dates, I was wooed by arc and azimuth, declination and degree. Although my budding career as a mathematician went nowhere, these days I still find myself smitten by line, curve, and lovely alluring angles. When I walk the streets of Keene these days, my eyes are honed on interstice and angle, line and edge.

The wonder of light is that it perpetually makes things new. When we say we want to “see something in a new light,” we are, in a sense, longing for re-creation, the ultimate second chance. A wall seen by morning light is not in fact the same as that spotlit by sunset: this new (or indeed, exceedingly old) light that hastened across the universe to bounce off a window and then hit the wall is the agent of both change and re-seeing. Look twice, three times, even four: have you really seen that wall across the dooryard, the one you’ve contemplated over many a foggy cup of morning coffee or an endless procession of dinners? Look twice, three times, and yet again: is the wall you see at all regular and mundane or do you merely think it so, jaded from long exposure? That wall, after all, is (like yourself) lit and sustained by nothing less than the Cosmos.

On those occasions when I’ve sat longer retreats, spans of silence that stretched between one and three weeks, one thing I noticed is the way light and shadow tracks time and season. Sitting looking only at a span of wood floor immediately before me, I’d watch as shadows crept from one side of the room to the other as the hours slipped by, the angle of shadow arching and falling. Over the course of even a week, these patches of light and shadow moved. The morning light that gleamed in my eye during morning chanting on Monday would illuminate my right knee at the same time on Saturday: even the sun has places to go, things to do. If you sit a week’s retreat in the springtime, in March, for instance, you’ll notice the gradual but entirely perceptible way that the days lengthen, chants that originally transpired in darkness gradually and inevitably being lit by springly renewal.

In a word, it’s not about seeing, this brief spot of light we share; it’s about re-seeing, about those freshly illuminated perspectives that appear and re-appear in a teasing attempt to catch our attention again and again. Come here often, light and shadow coyly ask; even if we do, we’ve probably never seen the precise likes of them, no matter how many times we’ve looked.