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Light from the Past

Submitted by Virginia Watts on Tue, 05/26/2020 - 11:50

There is in interesting pheomenon that can happen at night, just before sleep, when you close your eyes. You may be treated to a kind of behind-your-eyes light show, with patterns and colors. I've had this happen to me on and off for many years. But lately I find my brain making actual pictures out of what it 'sees' there. It's like looking at the patterns in marble, where you see a definite outline of something that shifts, suddenly, and then disappears if you move your gaze or turn your head. You might not find it again. Sometimes if I've had a particularly busy day, or used my eyes for more screen time than is healthy, the effect of this light show can be quite detailed. Maybe it's a brain that's aging, sorting through other remembered scenes, and projecting what it finds for my entertainment or attention. The first time I saw actual pictures of people, or vivid cartoon characters, I told myself I had better cut down on the chocolate, or the wine, or the combination thereof. But I eventually learned that it probably wasn't anything more than phosphenes, lights and patterns on the retina, that can show up when you close your eyes. If you are in a particularly dreamy state, I suppose your mind can turn that display into organized patterns that move, and morph, and then disappear.

I've begun to appreciate the entertainment, particularly if I'm having a hard time getting to sleep. At first I was afraid my mind might display some terrifying figures or scenes, since that can happen in dreams. But so far I have only seen faces of people who I knew and are long gone, or strange cartoon scenes that run like an old-time film.

My husband would say that the mind works hard to fit the world into categories. We like to organize our thoughts, our memories, in order to make sense out of the whole of our experience. We like to know where things fit, and how. I think he sees it as a classification system that's very useful. He would have made an excellenstarlightt reference librarian, or cataloger. I'm just relaxing and enjoying the entertainment.

I think I will continue to enjoy the show, as long as only dear faces appear and entertaining characters stream their way in and out. No subscription seems to be required, and it is oddly soothing. Like light from far-away stars that have already burnt out, I am gifted with lighted faces of dear people who are no longer with us. A bit of time travel, a bit of light from long ago and far away. We need all we can get.