Personal Essays

the light according to palms

Everyone knows light influences mood. The grand lighting designer for this latitude
must have set the mood to “euphoria,” because here I am staggering around
sun-drunk and bedazzled, high as a kite on the startling light in this humble inland
city. I knew it would be hotter here—and it is!--but I didn't think ten degrees of
latitude would lend such intensity to the visible light. The only place I've seen this
shattering white radiance is at the beach.

I've always marveled at the light near the shore, even the cold New England coast.
It is so clear, so pure, so exhilarating that I want to eat it, and I know it will taste
cool and tart and clean, like fine lemon sorbet. This Louisiana light is
Tabasco-sauce light. It burns my bare shoulders and leaches all the color from my
midday flowers, searing its way into my brain until I can hardly think.

On this flat, floodplain landscape, under this transcendent light, I feel all the time
like I'm about to round a corner and find an ocean. The local paper mill adds to
the illusion--its sulfurous emissions stink like a salt marsh at low tide. People
here joke that it's the smell of money, but to me it truly smells like the sea. I can't
shake the feeling that I'm perched on the glittering edge of a continent. This is
liminal light. I am poised on the brink of wonder.