August 19th, 2009

Yellow Lights and Long Summer Shadows

Earlier this week in my Spicy Summer Sundays blog tour post, I talked abut transition. As well I invited readers to talk about it, which they did so beautifully and thoughtfully that it has inspired me to continue to ponder the topic. (It appears I wasn’t the only one — check out the beautiful flash story Craig J. Sorensen created.) Yesterday as I was driving home, I noticed the “long shadows” that Rick had mentioned earlier as uniquely characteristic of evening in late summer. I wasn’t looking for them, but as I looked out the windshield at a large flowering bush, I suddenly did notice a particular kind of light. I realized the lighting appearance was that of the long shadows he had just been talking about — a sign of late summer.

As I mentioned in my poppy seed post, according to Traditional Five-Element Acupuncture we are in the season of Late Summer* — the season of transition. After writing the post and reading the extraordinary discussion that followed, I have been noticing transition more, and sometimes I have been deliberately pondering it as well.

As I noticed these long summer shadows, I simultaneously seemed to feel a quite vague, mysterious, and fleeting yearning. It occurred to me that transition may seem so fascinating to me because historically there has been an orientation in me distinctly disposed to focusing on extremes — a “one or the other,” “all or nothing,” black and white mentality. I remember when I was a kid, long before I learned to drive, I didn’t understand the purpose of the yellow traffic light. Seriously. It seemed to me you either go or stop — what is the in between of the yellow for? After I learned to drive, of course, the purpose of the yellow light made sense, but it seems funny to me that even now I can remember feeling genuinely confused by its existence.

Transition. The yellow light signals transition (interestingly, the color that corresponds to the Late Summer season in Five-Element Acupuncture is yellow). And in a way, transition flies in the face of that focus on extremes that has historically operated in me. Scarlett Greyson mentioned in a comment after the poppy seed post on Sunday the transition of fresh water to/from ocean water — an example I found exquisite, as well as one I don’t ever remember occurring to me. To the historical “extremes” perspective in me, there is fresh water and there is salt water. There are places of each. Somewhere in a cold mountain spring, the water is as fresh as can be. In the ocean, that freshness is nowhere to be seen in the utter saltiness of seawater.

Yet somewhere, there is a transition between. Somewhere, there is a meeting in which the extremes are not yet defined.

I felt actually startled when this relation between transition and non-extremes occurred to me, as I don’t know if it had ever quite occurred to me that way. Unsolicited, different areas of transition began to occur to me, along with how the historical orientation in me toward extremes may have influenced my perspective or experience.

First came writing. For almost as long as I can remember, I have loved the act of writing. Sometimes I have experienced it as evoking a near-euphoric feeling in me. In Jeremy Edwards’s Spicy Summer Sunday post, he asked what readers’ favorite phase of the writing process was. An answer I gave, very sincerely, is that one of my favorite parts of writing a story is when I finish it. I mentioned a possible reason for that as well, and a number of reasons for such have occurred to me before, but this drive yesterday was the first time viewing it in relation to transition had occurred to me.

I have noticed — numerous times — a part of my psyche that has seemed to operate with “the story has not been written yet” and “the story is done” being basically the two aspects it feels aware of or interested in. The middle literally seems like a blank. The act of writing, when I’m doing it, may feel magnificent, but if I am not writing and examining what to work on or do, I have often felt this orientation in me front and center.

As though it looks at the actual writing of the story as a transition. And it does not feel interested in that as per its zeroing in on the extremes — the story is either done or it is not started yet (or barely started during a time of aforementioned euphoria-producing writing but obviously not finished yet).

I wondered as this occurred to me what this part of the psyche in me does not like about transitions. Possible answers came forth again unsolicited. Transition may be a time of uncertainty, of disorganization, of fragility, and perhaps most of all (maybe in part due to those things) of vulnerability. It was not new to me to recognize that a part of me has historically not felt comfortable with those things. It was new to me to consider them specifically in the context of transition.

At which time sex occurred to me. When I was younger, the perspective in me about sex seemed often not interested in transition. In fact, it seemed distinctly opposed to it and wanted to pass over it as quickly as possible/practical. The orientation in me at that time was to literally go from determining the interest in and practicality of fucking someone to the act of doing so in as little time as possible. The area of transition was where things like emotion and, perhaps relatedly, vulnerability could develop. Of course in these encounters I was interested in mutual respect (in fact insisted upon it), connection, and to some degree affection, but serious emotional experience or certainly intimacy (which I’m not sure this part of me even had a conception of) seemed disorienting, frightening, or utterly foreign to this part of me and, according to it, were to be avoided.

When I first became a patient of Five-Element Acupuncture in January 2006, the layout of the five seasons was explained to me (the familiar four plus Late Summer), and it came to light also that each season presented unique offerings and gifts. At the time, I liked summer and that was about it and had found plenty of reasons to disdain the others. During the course of treatment, my acupuncturist presented the different offerings of each season, and a significantly new appreciation for all of the seasons and their incredible respective offerings developed in me (so much so that I was actually just moved to tears as I typed that).

As I write this I feel like the examination of Late Summer has perhaps been the least focused on for me. I’m not sure why — maybe because we haven’t seemed to work as much on that element in me (each season corresponds with an element in Five-Element Acupuncture, which relate to meridians in the physical body), or maybe because its being the transitional season has made it not seem so much like a “season” to me as the four with which I was previously familiar. In any case, the opportunity really seems prominent to me right now for me to appreciate and explore this season of transition. I feel deeply grateful as such.


*I would guess that now we are actually quite close to or even into Autumn according to the Five-Element calendar, which does not follow or coincide with the official Western calendar (e.g., the Western calendar places the beginning of such seasons as summer and winter around their actual solstices, which according to the calendar of Traditional Chinese Medicine is actually their peak).

“And look for the stars as the sun goes down…just sit back…prepare for the best and the fastest ride…everything’s magic…”
-Angels & Airwaves “Everything’s Magic”

17 Responses “Yellow Lights and Long Summer Shadows”

  1. What a great way to cap off your lovely, transitional spice Sunday, Emerald!

    Thanks so much for the shout out to my little story.

    As you talked about that evening light, it reminds me of a particular favorite light of mine (we actually call it “Craig Light” in my family.) When a layer of clouds lingers overhead, but there is an opening toward sunrise or sunset, there is a rich gold color that just transfixes me.

    It’s a double transition! A storm arriving or departing, and the start or finish of the day. It one of the most perfect lights in the world. At least for me.

    Love the musing on yellow lights. It gets even more complicated in Germany. There, when the light turns yellow on the “go” side, it turns red and yellow on the “stop” side. Kind of a “ready, set” for the stopped traffic. Of course, I liked it.

    I guess you can say I’m all about the transitions. I was very much interested in the transition when it came to girls. For example, I was fascinated with kissing, could do until my lips went numb.

    I’m glad that you have opened up to the joy of transitions. To me, that’s where some of the greatest joys are; even the difficult ones.

  2. Emerald says:

    Oh, yes, Craig, I remember your mentioning “Craig light” in the comments of someone’s (Donna’s maybe?) blog a while back! (I like the word “transfixes,” btw.)

    “Of course, I liked it.”

    For some reason that made me laugh out loud.

    I do remember your mentioning a fondness for transitions when we discussed seasons back in February during my salad progressive blog dinner course. (Also remember talking about kissing during yours!) Thank you so much for coming by and for such a lovely commentary. It is so interesting to hear about a perspective that contrasts with the one I described in its orientation toward and acceptance around transition.

  3. Wow, Emerald, what an interesting internal dialogue.

    I think I’m probably the opposite of you! I love transitions, almost to a fault. I get lost in the writing process, fall in love with my characters, and am loathe to end the story. My craft room is a riot of projects left in mid completion, somewhat for the same reason. I adore seeing what’s in my head begin to make it’s way forth, but seeing it completed is less of a priority.

    Craig! I love that light! We get a special kind of light at our place that I’ve not seen anywhere else. As the sun goes down, it refracts through the trees at the back of our yard. The light is somehow green and gold, shimmering in the very air.

    I, too, am glad you’re appreciating transitions, Em. They really hold some of the most exquisite feelings.


  4. Jeez Emerald. Seeing how many things that I said in this comment that I’d said before…

    I gotta transition to some new material! ;-)

    Hey Scarlett, I’d love to see that light you are talking of. In Idaho at my brother’s cabin during certain times of the year, there is this spot where, when the sun has gotten behind the mountains to the west, an arrowhead of light appears on a mountain to the east. I can simply get lost in those magic moments that anyone can see, but not all observe. I guess that’s one of the reasons I write, eh?

    And yes, I love transitions to a fault too!

  5. Cora Zane says:

    Wonderful post, Emerald! Just this morning while driving home, I noticed the haze was burning off in a different way, and it hit me suddenly – this feeling things are changing around me. So I can sincerely get that it’s a transformative time of year, and thankfully, I’m ready to embrace it. :)

  6. Neve Black says:

    Hi Em,
    Yes, wonderful way to end your transitional discussion from Sunday’s spicy, poppy tour.

    Last night as the week-long hot sun sank behind the day, the air felt cooler and the wind picked up. It smelled of rain in the air. Somewhere between a conversation and drinking a beer, it started pouring. There really are many lovely transitions happenining all around us – thank you for reminding me to see them –

  7. Emerald says:

    Hi everybody! Thank you all so much for coming by and commenting.

    Craig, I so did not mean it like that at all. : ) I found the consistency interesting — it seems to me to mean that these things are significant to you.

    Yes, I hear what you all are saying about the different light and atmospheric feeling — I’ve continued to notice it. : )

    Thank you again everybody!

  8. Wow, I’m still trying to take in all the beauty and poignancy of this post and the comments. This time of year has always evoked yearning in me. Yearning for “school” to begin (an embarrassing percentage of my life has been spent as a student or teacher) and fear of what it will bring. And yet I’ve always loved the long evening shadows, too, that feeling of being on the brink. I also understand the anxiety of transitions and I tend to shut down a bit in my fear and just take one step at a time. Your post made me more conscious of all of this and awareness is a gift and a necessity for a writer. I have a feeling this post will linger like a late summer shadow!

    I found your comment about transition and sex especially thought-provoking.

    Off to read Craig’s story!

  9. I know you didn’t mean anything negative in it, Em. You know me and my peculiar sense of humor.

    I was just having a spot of fun!


  10. ‘I have noticed — numerous times — a part of my psyche that has seemed to operate with “the story has not been written yet” and “the story is done” being basically the two aspects it feels aware of or interested in. The middle literally seems like a blank.’

    This makes me think about something I’ve noticed (which I realize isn’t exactly what you’re talking about) … When I’m in the final stages of writing a story–when its full mass is in front of me and I’m just tweaking and polishing–I’m often at a loss to recall how it went from a beginning to a complete piece. I’ll be aware that I’ve spent X number of hours working on it … but that “magic” transition from something started to something fully fleshed out sometimes remains mysterious, in a way.

  11. Emerald says:

    Thank you, Donna. When I read your comment, it occurred to me that we’re all students and teachers, all the time….

    Yes, the sex and transition thread was interesting to me too. I don’t want to sound like I never found sex meaningful back then or anything (actually sex seems to me always meaningful whether we recognize it or not). Just that I have noticed certain aspects or patterns that seem indicative of unconscious patterns that have operated in me. As I mentioned in the post, I had never thought of it in terms of transition before, but the angle seemed interesting to me.

    Thank you again and so lovely to have you back! : )

  12. Emerald says:

    “Spot of fun”! Lol Craig.

  13. Emerald says:

    I actually feel like I know just what you mean, Jeremy. I wonder if it is an indication that the process of writing the story came from a different level of consciousness, or you were operating from a different level of consciousness, from the one in which you viewed the story later.

    Actually…it seems that could be applicable to what I described too….

  14. I think your “different level of consciousness” theory may be a propos (at least speaking for myself). Feelings of “being in the zone,” losing track of time, being “immersed,” and so forth–which I find typically accompany a sustained, fruitful session of creative work of any kind–*do* suggest a different level of consciousness from the level I operate from for more mundane purposes. Perhaps it’s partly a right-brain versus left-brain distinction.

  15. Emerald says:

    “Feelings of ‘being in the zone,’ losing track of time, being ‘immersed,’ and so forth–which I find typically accompany a sustained, fruitful session of creative work of any kind”

    Yeah, exactly!

    Thanks for stopping back by, Jeremy. :)

  16. danielle says:

    i m late late late again..yes i know thats all i see to say

    but this post is sooo wonderfull written that i had to read it twice in a thats not because my english is so bad but because i liked the post a lot..:-)..

    at night, even though its still warm, i can smell the change too..its cooling can taste the rain…fall is comming…

  17. Emerald says:

    Oh, Danielle, thank you so much! I feel so flattered by that and so glad you enjoyed it.

    Heh, I have been known to say “I’m late” quite a bit myself, including in non-blogland…anyway, no worries, of course! Thank you so much for stopping by and for commenting. :)

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