This afternoon I could almost believe we lived in the neighborhood of a star, which of course we do – astronomically speaking – but it’s easy most days to forget it. Today, however, I had my eyes dilated and when I stepped out of the optometrist’s office it was as if the sun’s photosphere had burned through earth’s little blanket of air and resolved the material world to an undifferentiated field of molten light.
The effect of dilation isn’t to make things appear brighter than they are but to force the eyes to see more of the light already there. In fact, it’s always this bright – brighter. There’s simply far more light than we are able to see. The lid half shuts and the iris contricts to shield against the full blast. But even dilated, the aperture lets only the slimmest beam inside. If we were all eye we would see nothing but light.
The sun isn’t much worshiped anymore, unless by worship one means the lolling presentation of flesh on a beach or deckchair. Sacrifices ceased long ago. Who can say if it’s suffered by our recent neglect? The body of the god, alive or dead, still revolves: Sol Invictus, perpetual defiance in his chariot, or the recurrent corpse of Helios still warm, still bright.
Four days of rain in California is something of note. The roof of our little home beats like a drum under a waterfall. At night our dreams filter through purling treble notes that ring from the metal throats of gutters stretched under the eaves. The soil drinks to reeling limit and vomits all excess onto walks and streets and courtyards. In brief gaps between the showers, doves dive famished from the boughs to hunt for worms fighting up through liquid earth.
In Seattle, where I lived for twelve years, forty days of rain at a stretch was not unheard of. I managed somehow to bear it, to claim to enjoy it. When the dark and wet had found its way too far into my brain I would visit the heated cactus room at the Volunteer Park Conservatory, or sit for an hour under the lights in the butterfly garden at the Pacific Science Center.
Here summer consumes nine months of the year. Sol reigns invictus from April to October but scatters himself a week at a time through the rest of the calendar too. His banishment behind the clouds is always a piece of play-acting, all the better to astonish us into awed submission at his next revelation. The weather prophets predict his return tomorrow. Already the magnolia out my window is lit like a candelabrum with pink tongues of flame.