It’s All About the Light


I’m back from Mexico, but I can still feel the intense white light that burnishes the back of your eyes after just a few hours in that unabashed sunlight. Baja California Sur is a glorious combination of two large arc themes, operatic in a visual sort of way. On one hand you are never far from the minimalist landscape of the desert, a terrain iconic for stripping it down to the bare essentials, for survival and stamina, for the perennial seeking for spiritual insight and a higher knowing. And on the other hand, there is that ring of dazzling color, both the Pacific and Sea of Cortez, that moves through all the shades of blue, green, turquoise, and back again. The contrast is relentlessly beguiling.

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Light on adobe walls, on the cool green shades of the agaves, on the textured palms and cacti, on long stretches of sandy beaches–light that intoxicates my cocktail of (mostly) Northern European genes, genes passed on to me from generations of ancestors who never lived their lives anywhere this lush, this guilelessly sunny, this far removed from an Ingmar Bergmanian ambient angst.

Sea lions at Los Islotes

Perhaps a yearly swim with the unabashed sea lions on the islands of Espiritu Santo–alongside a few other human celebrants–is all I need to manage a truce between the large arc themes of my interior life (although the private dialectics are never as cleanly defined as the desert/ocean duality I just spent a week edging between.)

Mona, Kellin and Clayton, three of my favorite sea lion swimming humans

4 Replies to “It’s All About the Light”

  1. Wow—beautiful photos…and writing. I’m in need of a little desert about now—I need to live with something minimal until I see how minimal it really isn’t, the way the sea has all those shades. It’s refreshing to make transitions.

  2. Elatia Harris says:

    Deborah, you’re back! I had a relative who spent lots of time in Baja. She said the world would one day be all desert and sea and, knowing this, the combination made seekers of us. What you write puts me in mind of the meditation in “The English Patient” on how the painters of the desert caves were not a Sand People but a Water People — and the difficulty of telling the difference. I learned in
    Venice that anywhere there is more water than land — not only Venice, but Baja, the Cape, but not on rounder islands like the Vineyard — the light has its particular irradiating quality because it is coming from two directions, from the sun and the water reflecting the sunlight, the same phenomenon that makes an ocean “hold” a sunset better than a forest a mile inland, so that the sunset appears to happen at two distinctly different times. In Venice, they call this the water light. Glad you got driven crazy by it!

  3. Love this information. Thank you!

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