Light and Location

Lovely Turkish GirlsI was in a general, all around bad mood–full of foul, angry bile just waiting for the right moment to be a bitch (and yes, men can be bitches too)–only momentarily broken by the spell the interior of the Hagia Sophia cast upon me, as I took the metro back to Taksim this afternoon. But the moment I crossed the Golden Horn I’d have possessed a heart of ice to not smile. And it was a big, shit-eating grin of pure joy that I smiled. My fellow passengers must have thought I was nuts. This looney foreigner smiling like an inmate from a lunatic asylum?

But it was impossible not to, for three hundred and sixty degrees of eye candy lay before me! The late afternoon light, just beginning its long slant towards sunset stretched out like luminescent fingers reaching for the pink and green hills of Asia.

Damn, sometimes I just can’t help myself. Sadly, this is one view that must be seen in person. The photos I’ve posted over three trips here so far just don’t do it justice. Not even remotely.

I sat back, sighed a deep, heavy sigh and thought of what I’ve seen in the last several months, lost in a moment of poignant reverie.

“Has anything been as beautiful as this?” I asked.

I ticked off the list: Singapore? Nope. The Cameron Highlands? Nope. Laos? Nope. Angkor? Nope. Vietnam? Nope. Lake Toba? Close, but not quite–and a very different aesthetic and cultural experience in the bargain.

There is something about the natural setting of Istanbul with Asia to the south, the deep, almost estuary-like Golden Horn cutting through the heart of the European city like a dagger and the old Acropolis where the Topkapi and Hagia Sophia still stand that is quite literally majestic. Oh, there are places of supreme natural beauty that get me twirling around in fits of ecstasy like one of the local Mevlana Dervishes. But I know of no place on earth where nature–here the sea and the hills–and city come together with such force and impact.

I mined deeper into my past and a thought danced around in my head, something I’d been toying with but hadn’t quite idealized.

“Light,” I thought, snapping my fingers loudly, scaring the lady sitting next to me.

That’s the ingredient that makes Istanbul so special to me. Rome’s got it too. Actually, almost every place in the world has its own special light. Some, like Muscat, are sharp, hard edged. Singapore’s is wet and heavy. The Western Deserts of China dazzle in dry brilliance and Central Mexico has a serenity that belies the chaos happening at all points along the compass. Sadly, too many are now too occluded by pollution to be appreciated any longer. I mean, really, how many of us sit around and ponder the color of the local light?

Now, Rome’s light, actually much of Italy south of the Arno, shares a similar feel to that of Istanbul, but not quite the same. I’m writing this off the cuff so I’ll spare you any elaborate or purple metaphors and similes, suffice it to say the light of Rome is warm, like a luscious white wine. And the way the rays fall through the Parasol pines on the Aventine or Quirinal makes one want to be holy. But this light in Istanbul? It’s like a cross between the ancient light of Athens in all its quasi-oriental hues and Rome’ stunning grandeur, except one never knows when some sultry houri or odalisque is going to jump out and lead me down temptation avenue. Or a Janissary captain is going to press me into the Sultan’s service. Or a half-mad, drunken Armenian is going to tell me judgment day is coming. I just never know!

It’s also that same light that finds its way down from the dome of the Hagia Sophia, a place that never fails to inspire.

Fuck it, man. I’d wade through a river of shit ten times to see this place.

One Response to “Light and Location”

  1. Chronicles Of The Return » Blog Archive » “En Texas, septiembre es el mes quema”

    […] I wrote this about the same time last year. And while I am technically two days early, nothing has changed. Except the light: it’s still a scorching, lifeless, dull, enervating gray summer light beating down on us. Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and the shifting baseline of reality will have become perceptible. Probably not. You don’t notice the change in the light when you’re thinking about it. Changed circumstances? Certainly. But the light? Who pays attention to that? Only fools and wanderers. […]

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