When I walked into my spiritual director’s study this afternoon, there were sparks of light dancing all over the room. My director was standing in a shaft of sunlight, holding a small bowl-shaped candleholder made up of many bits of glass soldered together. Each bit was at a slightly different angle and when she held it in the sun and moved, lights spangled the walls.
For most of the session, the bowl sat on a small table between us where it caught the light, spattering dabs of light around the room. Their wild dance was stilled to the nearly imperceptible rhythm of the sun’s crawl across the sky. Much of the time we were hardly aware of them, as we talked of illnesses and deaths, a prayer practice of looking for moments of light, and the interplay of darkness and light.
Beside my director’s chair was a small table with a candle and some pictures. I looked at them without really seeing them until suddenly a small flame blossomed in a dark area of one of pictures, an Annunciation. The right half looks like an old Dutch painting, with Mary as a peasant woman standing by a table. The left is dark with a wild scribble of light for the angel. “My Neon Annunciation,” my director calls it. The flame – a reflection from the soldered glass candleholder – slowly bloomed at the edge of the table. A little later, it lit the angel. Light and darkness.
I want to keep musing on the intersection of light and darkness in the days ahead. Looking for sparks of light is not an attempt to see life as all sunshine and roses. Life and death, darkness and light are more intertwined than that. My attention keeps getting caught by the interplay of light and shadow, joy and sorrow. Looking for sparks of light is a way to keep affirming that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness can not put it out.
* I've learned that the picture is of a mixed media installation by Theodore Prescott. He sculpted Mary "as a Mennonite girl standing alone in a humble house, preparing to bake bread." The angel is a scribble of neon tubing. You can see a thumbprint at
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"