[View with images] A quick climb near sunset, which is unnervingly early this time of year. I grab the camera on the way out the door. I am in the tree only briefly, but it is long enough to take a few photographs of the lower prayer flags that, when I view them later, make me as hungry as I now am in the tree. It makes me want to stuff a prayer flag in my mouth with the light still on it. Like some kind of celestial sauce. Hungry for the look and feel of the flags. For their essence. Hungry for light itself.
What to call this species of hunger? A desire to consume the world, to take the whole of it inside oneself. Or maybe to lose oneself in it to the point of drowning. A soul lost forever in the radiant depths of the world.
A gleam of light shooting from the setting sun and glancing off a prayer flag in the clear air. The glow of presence in the cloth and onto it and from it, all at the same time. Soft, this light, but not like the softness of summer light—not diffused by water-bearing air. This air is like crystal. This light is soft from the lateness of the sun. The weakness of the light revealing the strength of the thing. The tissue of existence glowing as if with its own radiance.
I look up the etymology of ‘soft.’ It traces back through Old English and the Saxon to the Proto-Germanic ‘samftijaz’: ‘level, even, smooth, gentle.’ Compare to the Proto-Indo-European root ‘sem’: ‘one’ or ‘whole.’
I find this connection irresistible. Looking at these prayer flags in this light, I am haunted by a sense of their oneness and their wholeness, in fact by a sense of their own-ness (though I am not entirely sure what I mean by this), hanging as they are in the sky, radiant with their own being in the soft light. Utterly intact.
And at the same time, how fitting, how right, that their one, their whole, their own, should be revealed by the light of something other than themselves. That they have their being, as we know it, in and through the sun, not in and of themselves.
When the sun drops below the horizon, they are extinguished. They are still folded and draped, but they have gone flat. They have their own-ness still, but it has changed dramatically.
Now they are a whisper hanging at the edge of the wood.