Twinkle, Sparkle, Shimmer


Twinkle: it’s as much about dark as light.

A visible twinkle always has a counterpart–a yin to its yang, eyes closed and opened.

Unlike a sparkle, a shimmer, or a beacon, a twinkle is an on-and-off illumination.  Its hallmark is that, intermittently, no light is emitted from whatever source gives it life.

It has something to do with depth: a shimmer quivers at the surface, but a twinkle in the eye comes from animation within.

Unlike a gleam and akin to a sparkle, a twinkle can come from an impy, sometimes conspiratorial impulse.  A twinkle does not take itself too seriously.

It also has to do with duration.  A lighthouse beam flashes on and off, but its sustained notes endure beyond the life of a twinkle.

A steady light source can segue into a mere twinkle: the wind may lift branches or vines across its surface, giving the illusion of waxing and waning light; an electrical pulse may weaken and flicker.

Cities and towns will twinkle as some parents finish bedtime stories and click off lamps, while others return to dark homes and reset their points of light on the landscape.


A twinkle is often anchored in light seen from a distance, as it was in “Ulysses“:

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs . . . .
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

It may be Scrooge-like to observe that the erstwhile twinkle seems slightly overused in Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” where it appeared twice in just a handful of lines:

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

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This Dazzling World




The stirring sun’s strands seem to gather into an outsized hand.  A finger pokes the lighthouse from offstage, an entreaty to shake off that opaque midnight black and join the horizon’s color riot.

Given the weather, this sunrise had not seemed at all promising.  But I was up, the beagles were fed and walked, traffic on the way to work was unlikely to have yet ensnarled  . . . and so I hauled myself the extra few miles to look out at the Atlantic before dawn.

Today is Jim’s birthday.  He’s not here to grow older, so I have to figure out how to celebrate it for him.
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Strong is Your Hold

jimgalapSometimes I think every picture I take embodies this week’s photographic theme: “Gone, But Not Forgotten.”

I took this picture of my husband Jim at the end of December.  He died only a few months later.  Although you would never have known it by either looking at him or even having been with him then, we all knew how quickly time was running out.

In some ways, I feel that I took up a camera in Jim’s stead.  It gives me a concrete way to capture memories unbound by time and distance–and perhaps by life itself.

To record images seems a little cheat in preserving the remembered life Galway Kinnell described when he wrote–in the collection Strong is Your Hold–of the moment we knew was coming:

“in a transformation
as quick as a shooting star’s
I will cross over into you
and ask you to carry
not only your own memories
but mine too until you
too lie down and erase us
both together into oblivion.”


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The Limits of Memory


You have insufficient memory.

Deadpan.  As if no irony were involved, my computer informed me it had aborted the task of uploading digital pictures.

I don’t ask that much of my computer, but there you have it.

I had amassed more than 1300 photos on my wee camera.  Too many pictures, with nowhere to go.

At first my rapidly antiquating computer flashed a sign that I was low on memory.  Then, having failed to get a reaction from me, it balked like a testy toddler and shut itself down, refusing to even consider loading another picture until I cleared space on my hard drive.

The only way to do this was, at long last, to go through the archives and dispense with the over and under-lit shots, the closed eyes, the needless near-identical extras.  The pictures that simply were not special enough to occupy space in my memory.

I should have known this would be . . .  problematic. Continue reading

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