a pearlant light
The eternal problem. I love the light on things. But I fail again & again under the pressure of getting it down. The physical fact of the light can’t be done with a metaphor: that’s a cop-out, as is giving up & using the quality of the light to describe something else. Light & colour are infuriatingly separate. There is only so much you can do with the word “resonant”, & yet that’s exactly the word for some colours of moss & lichen. They vibrate, they fluoresce, they seem to give out more light than they take up. Would it help to know their structure, to know how they reflect light ? Would it help to know something about colour, to know all the names of every colour & every shade ? You can stumble on the image of chenille, but it gets old fast. What is the difference between red neon light & the gules that warm Madeline’s fair breast in stanza 25 of The Eve of St Agnes ? Surely it can only help to know what you’re looking at: the virtue of obsession is that it will pull you all the way in, give you new tools, force you to learn new disciplines. Wet light. Ice. The light on wet ice. What happens to light in thick wet clag near the top of a Yorkshire hill on the 23rd of December, 1977 ? Is it that specific ? Could it ever not be that specific ? The soft, grainy pastel light in the very early morning on a buzzard & two water buffalo a couple of miles back from the Indian Ocean. You can’t do it: it’s just words. Or, at any rate, it’s just your words, & they’re feeble in front of the problem. When I was still working hard at it, it kept coming down to the difference between words & observation, images & observation, words & images. Pearlescence. Nacre: I was not joking when I had the narrator’s daughter call out, towards the end of The Course of the Heart, “The lights inside the shells!” But calling on something we all know is cheating too. It’s less a description than anguish. As for inventing light, which is one thing space opera encourages you to do: that’s just so trashy.