So, the other weekend, spontaneously, as he does, and as I like it when he does, Dr M suggested we go and see something of the ‘Vivid’ lights. For those unfamiliar with it, ‘Vivid’ is a city-wide Sydney festival of light and sound taking place in May-June. It’s been described as the world’s largest outdoor gallery. Nice! But while I’ve seen photos, and heard of friends going on ‘Vivid cruises’ around the harbour (sounds oh so very romantic), we’d never been.
You may recall from one of my first posts our daughter E loveslovesloves lights. We took her to the Hunter Valley Christmas lights and re-imaginings of the illustrious event made up the substance of at least the next six months of bedtime stories. So when we told her our latest plan, her eyes lit up, and she immediately coined her own festival terminology: the Christmas-fairy-princess lights.
It helped fan her flame further when we told her we were going to a castle, that is, the main quadrangle building of Sydney university, our chosen city-location for our night of light-viewing.
I was a little concerned we had built it up too much, that she’d be disappointed on arrival. But that’s something I like about kids, they see what they want to see. Their cynical skills are not yet honed. If they believe its the Christmas-fairy-princess lights they are going to, to the Christmas-fairy-princess lights they will go.
I was the one surprised.
It was beautiful. And moving. Large scale projections that told stories found their way onto the walls of the main quad. A building I had seen a million times before, in a million versions of light and shade became…magical.
But I’m thinking it wasn’t just the lights I was seeing. Like E I was seeing something else too. That’s one of the great things about an artistic experience, we all bring our own different layers to it. Even adults.
On top of the light display, this is what I saw:
A family of five, wandering along paths and across patches of manicured grass, past and through corridors, and stone courtyards.
A family, where once there had been just a girl and a boy, aged 21 and 19, negotiating the twisty, turny precarious paths of an early relationship, while they studied in these stone buildings, and drank coffee and tea in these cafes.
A family-just-formed, where there had once been a family-just-broken.
Only two weeks after the accident that took my brother’s life I came to this university for the first time. The university where he too had studied. About which I’d heard so many vivid stories. But at first I saw so much more shade than light. I felt the cold of the stone rather than the warmth of the atmosphere.
Until the light began to appear again. Slowly. Surely. In ways as unpredictable as the light show.
A family made not by effort or striving or it’s own success (things I erroneously spent too much time pursuing in my early university years) but of gift. Of grace. Against the odds.
At the time —all those years ago now —if I could have seen into the future, I would never have believed my eyes at what I see now. The daughter skipping ahead of me with the father. The boy with the big round eyes and light in his smile, and the baby before me in the pram, sleeping gently oblivious to it all: the peace and the clatter.
A good reminder that we never know where our path is going. What is around the corner. What play of light or shade is on our horizon.
Like E, kneeling, attention wrapped by the display before her, we can only watch and trust the Father of Lights for what comes next.