‘A certain slant of light’

Posted Dec. 07, 2013, at 3:36 p.m.
A man turns into a streak of blue bustling by an orange window at the Maine College of Art on Congress Street.
A man turns into a streak of blue bustling by an orange window at the Maine College of Art on Congress Street. Buy Photo
Portland City Hall is reflected in the windows of a building across Congress Street.
Portland City Hall is reflected in the windows of a building across Congress Street. Buy Photo
Stone steps, a handrail and the afternoon sun tangle in shadows in Portland.
Stone steps, a handrail and the afternoon sun tangle in shadows in Portland. Buy Photo
Autumn leaves line the steps at the First Parish Church.
Autumn leaves line the steps at the First Parish Church. Buy Photo
Afternoon sunshine projects a bicycle tire away from itself on the brick sidewalk.
Afternoon sunshine projects a bicycle tire away from itself on the brick sidewalk. Buy Photo
A picket fence overshadows a Mercedes.
A picket fence overshadows a Mercedes. Buy Photo
A woman walks in front of the stone stepson the Sacred Heart Church.
A woman walks in front of the stone stepson the Sacred Heart Church. Buy Photo
Pedestrian shadows mingle with those of a tree on State Street.
Pedestrian shadows mingle with those of a tree on State Street. Buy Photo
A handrail is copied onto a stone foundation.
A handrail is copied onto a stone foundation. Buy Photo
Star shaped lights hang in a window on Exchange Street.
Star shaped lights hang in a window on Exchange Street. Buy Photo
A street shows its cobble stone bones in stark relief.
A street shows its cobble stone bones in stark relief. Buy Photo
A building merges with its own reflection.
A building merges with its own reflection. Buy Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — Emily Dickinson wrote:

There’s a certain Slant of light,

Winter Afternoons –

That oppresses, like the Heft

Of Cathedral Tunes –

I think she was onto something. There’s a weight to the long shadows of late fall and winter. The sun never gets high, so they stay long all day. They stretch out in sometimes ominous distortions of the reality they mimic. The slant and glow tends to graze the high points, revealing contours usually unseen.

In the streets of Portland, some sidewalks won’t see the sun till spring. It gets high enough to graze the building tops, but never reaches the shaded ground. The illuminated building crowns explode into color while reflected in opposing shopfront windows.

Dickinson goes on to say:

None may teach it – Any –

‘Tis the Seal Despair –

An imperial affliction

Sent us of the Air –

She thinks this slanted light is a lot like death. I suspect her feelings for winter sun and long shadows were tinged by the fact she never left her room. If she’d had the chance to roam my city by the sea with a camera on a crisp day, stopping for a hot toddy and a chat, she’d see the light has an altogether different slant.

More slideshows

SEE COMMENTS →

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business