Light Play

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Light Play

It’s easy to look at something for years and never really see it.

I was reminded of this one morning in early July when willow branches began to sway in the wind. The dance between leaves and breeze created a shimmer and shimmy unlike anything I’d ever noticed when looking at these trees. For the first time that I can recall, in nearly 25 years that I’ve lived at this place along the creek, my eyes laser-focused on the dark green, glossy tops of the willow blades and the pale green matte surface of their underside.

It was a marvelous, mesmerizing play of light.

What Other Morning Magic Awaited?

Just beyond the willows, a birch tree caught my attention as if calling out to stop and look at what they had to offer. The leaves backlit by the sun, reminded me of a water color painting until I began to notice dark shapes interrupting their dreamy, translucent green color.

A closer inspection revealed the dark shapes belonged to shadows cast by other birch leaves, and the shadows weren’t just dark. They were dark green. The constantly changing mixture of light and shade, instigated by breezes, created light play.

“Find beauty not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and dark which that thing provides.”  ~Junichiro Tanizaki

My quest for light play extended beyond trees.

I observed it in glimmering reflections in the creek. I found it in dew drops on grass blades that sparkled like diamonds. When the light was just right, tiny rainbow-colored beads of dew decorated webs spun by orb weavers and funnel spiders. 

I discovered (or rather, rediscovered) that a dew drop (or rain drop) magnified the world beneath it.  I stared at dew drops that hung on the downward pointing tips of leaves like daredevils taunting gravity. Answers to science questions relating to the colors of the rainbow, magnification or gravity never crossed my mind. Instead, I walked slowly and stopped often to look for more of these fabulous impossibilities.

Throughout summer and into the early days of autumn, light play showed up in other ways, too. I found it in the way lengthening shadows made my legs look as long as the towering ponderosa pines. It appeared in the changing colors of leaves that glowed with the intensity of a candle-lit jack-o-lantern on Halloween. 

Last night I watched a bright orange sun setting behind a ridge of silhouetted pines. In a few places, small specks of orange light poked out between tree branches that looked like the lights left on in rooms of a high rise building at night. These lights, however, seemed to grow paler with each blink of my eyes or a brief gaze in a different direction. The time-lapse gradations of diminishing light soon gave way to night.

Light play doesn’t stop when the sun sets. Stars become visible on a clear or partially clear night. Northern lights might even show up. This is light play, too.  

By slowing down and observing – even in a place we think we know – simple gifts reveal themselves.  How many of them invite light play?

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”  ~Marcel Proust

Invitations for forest bathing can be modified in any way that feels comfortable to you. Sometimes an invitation becomes a springboard to something that’s completely different and that’s perfectly acceptable. When we regroup to share after an invitation, I often hear participants say, “I haven’t done that since I was a kid.” Some describe their experience as “playful” or “childlike.” Play is good for all ages, not just children. With that in mind, I offer this invitation:


I invite you to wander and notice light play. Feel free to interpret the words “light” and “play” any way you’d like.  Let it guide you. I wonder what you’ll find?

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