Sunday, November 22, 2015

Light and Darkness and the gift of Circadian Rhythm

"Morning Light on Panther Peak" 9x12, Oil on Canvas
I am so struck here in Big Bend National Park with the light. It captivates me. It causes me to wake up early so I can watch what it does to the landscape and sky. I find myself chasing it throughout the day. Watching it stretch across vast landscapes of dry ground and grasses, Sotol and Lechuguilla, Prickly Pear and Ocotillo. Each plant finds ways to thrive in this light-filled environment.
I have been enchanted with the birds. In the city I take them for granted. I see through them in a way. But here they seem to have come alive to me. The light is making me see them. And by watching I see they have personalities. A beautiful, bold Mexican Jay wants his picture taken and keeps talking to me until I get to it. Another tiny Rock Wren sings his little heart out as I hike past him letting me know I'm in his home. Some of the hawks here are so big their shadows scare me. I watched one dive and catch a cottontail bunny all in one movement. Incredible power in those wings and claws.
There are two openings in the day for the mystery to pass through us. As if the veil between heaven and earth isn't as heavy and thick and we can see through to something mysterious and sublime. They are sunrise and sunset. At these times the light takes away some of the heavy detail in the rocks to help me really see the rock itself. They are graceful in their wild ways of pushing up through the earth. The verses in the Bible that speak of how God has put, "My foot upon a rock" seem so real and solid to me looking and walking on these rocks. They are the sentinels of this volatile world. pushing up, carving, being carved and falling back into the earth. The light bends over them and crests their lines to see profiles of ancient limestone that are the Sierra Del Carmens.
One night we went down to the Rio Grande Village to hear a talk on the stars given by a Ranger who has worked Big Bend for over 10 years and many other parks for the past 25. He has seen Yosemite, Death Valley and Yellowstone night skies. He shared about light and how we are each given a Circadian Rhythm. A cycle of 24 hours that is designed into our bodies. This clock set by the light and darkness. The animals know it. Some of the predators rest in the day so that they can hunt at twilight and moonlight. The birds start to sing at first light. Certain fish know where to lay their eggs depending on the light (to keep from predators). As the Ranger was sharing he talked about how in each park he has lived and worked in he has seen a dome of light from far way. With Yosemite he sees a light dome from San Francisco. With Death Valley he saw the huge dome light of Las Vegas. This has caused some of the animals to be confused as to whether it's night or day. Their rhythms have been distorted by our need to be up later and later. In the meantime we have a culture that makes billions of dollars for the drug companies so we can take a pill to sleep at night.
One incredible gift we miss is the sense of stars. We literally cannot see them because of our lights. The vast space twinkling above us and we do not even see it. The Milky Way is literally sliding across the sky is beautiful rivers of light. How many wonders are we missing?
It got me thinking about how we use light in the city to seem to make it feel safer. More light. More safety. We pride ourselves on this false sense of security we build. We make walls, have running water, lights on buildings and yet the cities remain the most terrifying places on our planet. We work and then we overwork. We say we're not tired and grab another energy drink to keep our bodies from the natural Circadian Rhythm. Yet we need the light and the darkness. We need both. God made both. 
Just a few things I'm learning while being here:
Slow down and see the day and night - He made time this way.
Watch the birds.
Watch the light.
Watch the stars.
Trust God in the darkness, the real darkness.
We cannot make anything safe, not really.
There is beauty and a deeper beauty.
There is sky and a deeper sky.
The real I see is a glimpse of His real.
Beauty helps me experience God.
God IS beauty.
Making beauty gives another way to see hope.
There is fear in us.
Hope helps to dispel fear.
Light and darkness are a gift of God.


  1. I have seen those domes from the mountains east of San Diego. A dome to the west from Diego. Another to the northwest from Los Angeles. Another to the east from Mexicali. Makes me wonder how much more splendid the sky might be without domes blurring the horizon. Even so, the stars in the mountains are a million times more splendid than in the city. Dripping jewels of sparkling light hanging in front of a curtain of diamond shimmering clouds.

    1. I'm glad someone else in this world sees the stars like this. Love your description of them. Enjoy the lights from above!

  2. I come back again to thank you for giving me this armchair vision of the Big Bend, and your splendid painting. God bless.