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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Journal of Sun

Air Date: Week of February 21, 2003

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Commentator Tom Montgomery-Fate considers the cycles of the sun as he watches the days lengthen and waits for winter to melt into spring.

Transcript

CURWOOD: During these short, dark days in the deep freeze of winter, the transforming light and heat of the sun, and the promise of spring, can be difficult to imagine. Commentator Tom Montgomery-Fate looks ahead as he considers the sun's perpetual work of creation.

MONTGOMERY-FATE: As a kid I once watched a few bands of orange and red light meld and seep into an Iowa cornfield at dusk. As the glowing colors softened into night, the woods in the distance turned briefly to a silhouette, and then disappeared in the darkness. Sunlight is but an ordinary miracle.

If we seek evidence of the sacred, we need only pay attention to the world we are walking through. This year I'm keeping a journal of the slow wheel of the sun. In the fall, the days shorten, things dry out, fall apart, blow away. I watch the Queen Anne's lace on the prairie behind the farmhouse close into the tiny green bowls my daughters like to pretend are miniature bird nests, or chic earthy hats for their Barbies. The goldenrod withered, stiffened, and finally stopped waving at the robins. The leaves changed. The brown, brittle veined hearts scattered in the wind and settled somewhere to decay, the continuity of life and death made visible.

Today I'm dreaming of that cycle of light, of life, of those moments of transition, of winter melting into spring, of the April sun filtering through the barren trees and finding the dormant flowers lining the oxbow beyond the prairie, the blood wort, trillium, and Solomon seal. Soon the sun will awaken and raise them, ending their long crouch in the muddy weeds and shadow.

Writer Houston Smith once suggested sunlight embodies the inherent link between science and spirit. Light creates, he says, it pumps power into the spatio-temporal world. The immaterial light flowing from the sun is transformed into the earth's green carpet of vegetation. Because photons of light are situated on the cusp of the material and immaterial, they are not subject to our usual ways of understanding the universe.

That makes sense to me. I'm not sure why anyone would want to understand the universe in the usual way, to compartmentalize and measure to try and prove it exists. I would rather belong to it, awake, aware, connected to the light, water, air and heat that created me, that creates all life. Many cultures have worshipped and sung to the sun since ancient times, marveling at the great pumping heart of creation. It reminds us all year-round that we live on the cusp of the material and immaterial, of the sacred and the ordinary, and that what separates the two is more like a membrane than a hard line.

CURWOOD: Tom Montgomery-Fate teaches writing at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. He's the author of Beyond the White Noise, a book of essays about living in the Philippines.

 

Links

Buy Tom Montgomery-Fate’s book “Beyond the White Noise: Mission in a Multicultural World”

 

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