Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Light

My friend David emailed me this photo that he took last night of downtown Los Angeles from the Baldwin Hills Overlook. I imagine the view itself was clearer than the photo -- the light in February is extraordinary.

Even though I've lived here now for more than thirteen years, not a day goes by that I am not filled with gratitude for our climate. During the winter months, particularly January and February, the light in the city is remarkable and while difficult to describe, I can almost feel it on my skin, in my eyes, resting and illuminating everything from the shimmering ocean to the curled pieces of trash that blow about on the streets. When David sent me the photo, I was reminded of an essay about the light in Los Angeles that I read many years ago in a New Yorker magazine, and the internet being the incredible thing that is, I soon found that article, published in the February 23rd, 1998 edition and titled L.A. Glows (I moved permanently to Los Angeles in January of 1998, so the article was probably the first I'd ever read about Los Angeles with avid interest). I wish that I could quote numerous passages from it, but here's one of my favorites, spoken by architect Coy Howard:

It's an incredibly loaded subject -- this diaphanous soup we live in," he said. It feels primeval -- there's a sense of the undifferentiated, the nonhierarchical. It's not exactly a dramatic light. In fact, 'dramatic' is exactly what it's not. If anything, it's meditative. And there's something really peculiar about it. In places where you get a crisp, sharp light with deep, clean shadows --which we do get here sometimes -- you get confronted with a strong contrasting duality: illumination and opacity. But when you have the kind of veiled light we get here more regularly you become aware of a sort of multiplicity -- not illumination so much as luminosity. Southern California glows, not just all day but at night as well, and the opacity melts away into translucency, and even transparency.


  1. That's beautiful, Elizabeth. I think that every morning I get up and take in what the light looks like here and it affects me strongly. Inner and outer light so often coincide.
    I have never considered the light in LA but I am glad you live in it. You are part of it, you know. You are.

  2. I remember that light! And, when we lived in La Jolla, I loved the view from the front of my house to the snow capped mountains and the view from the back to the ocean (albeit a small view). That was February.


  3. I like this. Your thoughts on LA light in the wintertime. I feel the same about Florida in winter... grateful.

  4. luminosity indeed.
    i grew up in san diego...
    oh the beaches of la jolla. ecstasy.
    stunning. all year long.

    enjoy your gratitude, as we enjoy your light.

  5. Im jealous. No one ever says that shit about jersey ;) lol!

  6. exquisite.

    Light gets me.
    In the canopy of a forest , on the wood floor,

    and I'm glad you have this light.
    and share it.



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