One Second in the Light

It was dark when I left for Prescott last night, to drive up for a training class. Prescott was the capital of Arizona when it was still a territory. It sits at 5,500 feet, so it’s a lot cooler than Phoenix. The sun had set, but the sky looked backlit. The mesas were outlined, and the further I drove from Phoenix, the more stars I could see.

Photo by Andrew Dunn (Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)

I arrived at the hotel late, and collapsed into bed. The day had started before 5 a.m. and after a full day of teaching, the silence of driving for an hour an a half was calming.

Before the alarm rang, I work up and decided to risk finding the bathroom without my glasses on. The room was not completely dark, and while my toes were scared, I was too tired to hunt for the glasses on the nightstand, afraid I’d spill the water bottle onto the phone.

Heading into the bathroom, I noticed a perfect circle of light about the size of a saucer, shining on the wall. At first, I thought it might be a cover on the wall, but I ran my fingers over it, and it was just the wall, with a perfect circle of light. There was a slight rainbow-halo effect around the edges. But I couldn’t linger, and continued on into the bathroom.

A minute later, when I walked by the spot on the wall again, it was gone. No light, not halo, no rainbow. I looked around the room, but no light was on. Curiosity wakes you up. I stood with my back against the wall and looked slowly around the room to see the source of the light.

And then I saw it: the rising sun had swept directly over the peephole in the door, casting a perfect round of light on the motel wall. In the dark room, the peephole in the door looked like an LED bulb at full volume. And then, as I looked at it, the sun’s light arced over the lens, flashed, faded, and the sun continued to rise. The light was gone.

And in those few seconds when the sun lined up against that one hotel room door, for less than a minute, I had been awake and has seen it. OK, it was not Stonehenge, although the principle was exactly the same. But it was a moment that could have easily been missed, ignored, forgotten. I could have taught a day later and missed it. The desk clerk could have assigned me another room. I could have slept a minute longer. Or three minutes less.  But that isn’t what happened. On the one day in a year, when the sunrise lines up with the peephole in that one hotel room door I had been there to see it. One person had seen it and thrilled to the accuracy of sun/door/peephole/wall.

It was a small, perfect moment. And I had been awake for it.