Fairy lights

I’ve been looking at other peoples’ gardens, admiring the lights that line their pathways. Some gardens have lights that mark the undersides of trees, light up unusual rocks, or randomly illuminate blank brick walls. Other garden paths are merely lit by one porch light — the central focus of the dark yard. As we head towards the autumnal equinox, I think about lights in the fields, lights in the darkness, lights that emphasize the darkness and etch it with contrast.

This year, I was visiting a little town outside New York City, in time to see the Tribute in Lights. It was being tested the night before the 11th. The 11th was too cloudy to see the skyline at night, but then the next morning at 5 AM, I saw them again.

I had thought that the last time the lights would show up was last year, and I did not expect to see them. It was magical and startling, like porch lights suddenly snapped on to touch the heavens. 88 searchlights pointed toward the sky are a visual attraction — birds have been confused by the phenomenon. It was worth seeing, but too ephemeral to photograph the next morning. Sad, like a catch in the throat, a feeling of the uncanny, the otherworldly, like weakened twin paths of the moon reflected in the world below.* The rest of the time, it was good to glance over and see the city at daytime, struggling under the haze and fog, or at nighttime, lit up like normal under overcast skies.

*I’m not sure how the survivors and family members feel about the lights, honestly. I am glad they finally made a more permanent memorial. I’d be really sad off if there wasn’t a place (even a tree or a square of earth) to remember loved ones who have passed.


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