Ever since I was a kid, I’ve absolutely loved stained glass. Actually, it’s even more basic than that: I’ve always been fascinated by the opposition of light and shadows. I’ll find my attention diverted for long periods of time as I stare at a patch of floor being illumined, then shaded, by tree limbs and a playful wind. Motes of dust are treasure to me: they create sparkling oceans of vastness where, before the light hit them just so, there had simply been empty space. For someone transfixed by the endless nuance of light, stained glass is a delicious, unexpected treat.
As a child who was almost always ears-deep in some fantasy fiction book, I had a very active imagination and rarely put both feet down in the Real World. (When I had to play soccer in elementary school, for example, I pretended I was one of the crew of the Starship Yamato and that the other team were the Gamilons, and that the ball was one of their planet-bombs!! Pew pew pew!!
I was terrible at soccer.
In related news, I scored in the 99th percentile on the English portions of the SAT and ACT in junior high and high school.
And almost never went on dates.
Wait. This is about stained glass, not THE HORRIBLE STAINS OF MY
MISSPENT no, my tragically properly spent YOUTH!!!)
(cough) So I had a very active imagination. The year I turned 7 or 8, my parents took us in search of our genealogical roots during the summer; so we spent the hot months camping, doing chalk rubbings of gravestones, and hanging around in various churches while Mom dug through records.
My favorite part was finding a sunny spot near a stained glass window and curling up with a book… as I read about tesseracts, or about Ged going to wizard school, or in words that I’d nearly memorized, my favorite books – the adventures of my heroes in Middle Earth – I would absently trace the edges of the glowing colors with a finger. I always wanted to test them, these brilliant reds and oranges, to see if they were cool to the touch or hot. They seemed as though they should be burning or vibrating somehow… portals of energy, or bursts of flame, or perhaps intrusions from another world.
Watching the colors slide across the floor, so exuberant and yet so stealthy, it was easy to imagine them as messengers from a different *where* or *when*. It was easy to squint my eyes and look past the colors into the middle distance and imagine, oh, just there in the shadows – monks, grimly tonsured and cowled, huddled against a winter’s chill, glaring back at me in righteous disbelief for my intrusion. Or I’d place myself very carefully in a spot where I reckoned the lights would pass in a while, hopefully before Mom finished her research; and if I were completely still and completely within the circle of the lights, perhaps I’d be carried off… perhaps… or maybe dusk would come too soon, and the lights fade, losing their magic (as all magic dies from the world eventually. Everyone knows that. It’s in all the stories).
Although I eventually had to grow older, and some would say “wiser”, and begin paying bills, and become the sort of person who cares about Making Sure The Laundry Gets Done, and although a thousand other tiny mundane details have effectively soaked up my attention most of the waking hours of the day, I am not too proud to admit that I still look for rainbows caused by prisms and stained glass; nor can I say that I haven’t traced the edges of those bright spectres, looking for heat, magic, escape. Within me is still the child who yearns very strongly for connection with the far past – with magic – with heroism – with delight.
Because I know that and acknowledge it, I can greet that child, that sweet little goof with the missing front teeth and the crooked ponytails, and say: “Let’s find that patch of sun together. Do we have a book? Is it our favorite? Well, then. Let’s go.”
And I reach out my hand, and she grins, and she puts up her small hand and slides it trustingly into mine. And we skip off together to find our magical colored patch of light.