To love beauty is to see light

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“To love beauty is to see light.” — Victor Hugo

I often drive in darkness, returning to my home in New Jersey via Interstate 684 after visiting my mother in Connecticut, or while driving south on the New York State Thruway after a weekend upstate.

On clear nights, a¬†fiery, orange glow comes into view on the inky night canvas. The realization of it is sudden. At each viewing, I wonder how long the light has been brightening in contrast against the dark horizon — how long it has been straining to reach towards the unseeable edge, how long it has been shaming cloud patterns into revealing themselves after a long day’s labor — before my eyesight can acknowledge its efforts.

The expanse of light hails from New York City, several miles away. My birthplace, my childhood home, my forever place in the world.

The view is an alternate one from my position of childhood. The light is brighter, of course, thanks to advancements in electricity and lighting, and to the Tokyo-like look of Times Square in 2014, lit at 2 am as if tourists were bathed in midday July sunshine.

But as a child, I was unwittingly enveloped in it. Perhaps not at its epicenter, but just outside it. It contained me. It claimed me as its own.

The light holds my attention from the front seat, an obvious focal point for the eyes to rest upon. Its cynosure astounds me, while my children fall asleep in enviable positions in the back seat.

It is the intensity of life itself, I decide. The passion, the screams, the bar fights spilling out into the street, the hatred, the beauty, the graffiti painted again and again, over and over in the very same place on the wall, the clipped outerborough accents, the chop shops near CitiField, the loss of virginity in the back seats of Corvairs, the cops and the firemen, the squeal of subway brakes, the languid women in couture, the insistent hum of Queens Boulevard, the teacups tinkling at the Colony Club, the girls shopping for lingerie on their lunch hour at Macy’s, the New York that was, that is, that shall forever be — declaring itself to the vast night sky.

 

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