Light, Silence, & Time

Long Island Bedroom Window Series

Michael Dickel

The photos in this series show East-facing side-by-side windows and their reflections in a dresser mirror on the West wall of a Long Island ranch-style house bedroom (Syosset, NY), with open vertical blinds on the windows, taken in the late afternoon and near dawn, approximately 12 1/2 hours apart one week after the Autumnal equinox. The “collage” creates a digital interior landscape I’ve called “Light, Silence, and Time,” using one afternoon photo and two dawn photos, all three taken in the dresser mirror reflecting the windows. The image in the lower left, the camera lens resembling a doll- or clock-face, is me. In Long Island Bedroom – 5, one only sees the silhouette. After layering and processing in PhotoShop™, the image reveals, perhaps, more of the photographer.

Some thoughts on light from 1999

Some of my recent work , I wrote in 1999, centers on considerations of light—inner and outer. Although in the past I have written mostly in confessional and lyrical modes, speaking an “I” that barely coheres (if at all), more and more I find myself moving out into a chaotic world with my writing. I try to draw chaos into a perception, perhaps one that relates mood or understanding, yet increasingly find that my most satisfying work leaves me in the gaps between perception and comprehension. I am interested in the ways in which chaos and incomprehensibility cohere around structures as well as the ways in which structures rupture under the weight of this chaos and incomprehensibility. I am interested in the patterns that can result, increasingly under the scrutiny of that division of mathematics called Chaos Theory. This tension between chaos and comprehension forms the contours of my poetic imagination at the moment. This tension forges my subjectivity now, not the violence of masculinity [in 2021, I could write toxic masculinity]. The following meditation is another alternative inscription of my masculine subjectivity, written during the summer of 1997.

One winter night I am driving down a two-lane highway heading from rural Western Minnesota to the urban Twin Cities in Eastern Minnesota. It is a 150 mile drive I make twice a week that particular year: once, as this night, near the end of the week to the cities; and again at the beginning of the week, back to the small campus where I am teaching for the year. This week I am driving later than usual. The air is sharp to breathe, even in the heated car. The cold air outside is visible, palpable, in the bones of the earth. The car hums and the heater fan hisses so that the noise of machinery replaces most other sound; still, joining forces with the rush of the car, the relentless wind remains unsilenced. A steady vibration jitters me as I drive.

Snow reflects enough light to silhouette bare trees, black jagged-triangle evergreens, and occasional farmsteads; the light is even, the barely perceptible gentle folds of land smoothing out, flattening under this reflected glow into an abstraction: a silent, geometric plane. Stars puncture the dark sky with a particularly fierceness tonight, the sky clear, except to the north, where I notice what at first I take to be a high, thin film of clouds forming. I think I see light refracting in the ice-crystals, forming colors. Then I apprehend among the “clouds” movement, a dance of shifting colors and ribbons of light: yellows, blues, greens, reds. As I watch, the sky comes alive with bright, colorful ribbons . I pull the car over, mostly to prevent driving into a ditch, for my eyes cannot leave the north. I am aware of nothing but this light rippling and dripping across the blue-black sky where the stars fade, to faintly provide texture behind the night.

Over time the light ring [above the earth’s poles] grows and contracts, changing its color and shape as well as its size. To someone on the ground, the oval of light appears like veils or draperies of gentle, mobile, delicately radiant color that can last for several hours and stretch across the entire night sky. Growing, fading, and rippling, these lights possess a morphology entirely of their own and have evoked wonder and stimulated all manner of speculation over the millennia. Since Greek times, they have been called the aurora borealis, which means “northern dawn.”

—Arthur Zajonc, Catching the Light: The Entwined History of Light and Mind, 1995. p. 240 (lightly edited)

It may not have been winter when I saw the aurora. I can’t quite recall any more—all of those drives back and forth collapse in perspective, conflate. There was a night when the snow-reflected light flattened and illumined everything I saw. There was a night that rippled with the most brilliant aurora borealis I have ever seen, when I pulled over and watched, stunned, for I don’t know how long. They could have been the same night. I imagine they were.

I saw sundogs that year: reflections and refractions of the sun in the frozen moisture of the air that produce segments of rainbow—red, orange and yellow shifting toward a faint green—and bright miniature suns within the sun’s aura; light at play in the winter sky, mimicking the sun, mocking the cold with false images of warmth. I saw dark night down roads where dim house lights shown warmly for miles before my car drove by them. I saw blinding winter days when the sunlight and the snow merged and the gray pavement of the road seemed to float in light.

Shadow of myself – 3
Shadow of myself – 1

Shadow of myself
©2021 Michael Dickel

Shadow of myself – 2
Shadow of myself – 4

Shadows nearly disappeared then, and to the extent that they did, the world disappeared with them, no substance to the world but the road, the car, the odd tree or two blocking light, absorbing light, reflecting only a meager bit of light back so as to appear nearly black.

Except for these occasional shadow trees, there was only me, the interior of the car, and the vibration—a barely perceptible sense of motion along the suspended road. Sometimes the wind had blown a thin white coating over the road, as well, often along an especially tree-less patch. Then it was almost as though the world dissolved into light around me, as though all I could apperceive or comprehend floated, encapsulated, within the arm’s-reach stretch of space that was the interior of my car.

—Text from: Michael Dickel, Teshuvah: Writing Alternative Masculinities. PhD Dissertation.
Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI. [UMI Number: 9916425]. 1999. pp. 255–258

Some poems on light, silence, and time 1999–2004

Ground Fog

Where the heat of the day rises to meet the cool of the evening,
sometimes a layer of fog forms above hay stubble.
An oak that survived the great Hinckley fire
over a hundred years ago waits
while white mist diffuses behind it,
stretches up and over the corn, curls down to grasses
on the other side of the field, slides out to meet the beaver pond.
Fog erases so much as it echoes the remainder of day:
the red-tail that hunted rodents this afternoon,
a garter snake that sunned in the short stubble,
rolls of hay that dot the field,
my daughter
who walked out to sit and read
—all disappear in its cool insistence.
Hints of sunset still remain in the west—
where mist has not yet covered water,
bits of color reflect back from the clogged creek.
The dog and I stand still, listen to fog.
We scent the air. In the brush, a crashing sound.

“Ground fog” published in The Cape Rock in 2002. ©1999 Michael Dickel. Also in Teshuvah: Writing Alternative Masculinities, op cit., p. 252.


A man walking along a field where new corn
dots the soil grasps a bit
of stone, skimming it to the furrows
as though to skip across water—
but it punches up a small dust cloud

and sinks. A father and son walk a fence,
ready to repair rents in the barbed-wire.
Soon the corn will outreach the man;
then the combines come and tear it down.

The repairs will rust; then a poplar
drops across the fence one windy day.
Still, the men walk; the corn waits—
this is what they do.

Up by Lake Superior one day
a man tosses a smooth stone;
and it flits across the water
out to where blazing waves blind him
as he stands there gazing. Then, he speaks.

“Tacit” originally appeared in Blue Earth Review, @2004 Michael Dickel.

Called to faith

A man stands over the culvert on the gravel road onto the farm.
The stone he hefts in his hand—igneous remnants from before time,
bits of crystal cooled across history mingled with impurities beyond memory.
He lofts this shard of the past in a slow arc ending in the dark pool of standing water.

Sometimes he wishes he could follow it down through the water as surface tension
erases its faint traces; he wishes sometimes that he could fall through the cold numbness
to sink into the soft, welcoming mud—to sleep among layers of last year’s rotting leaves
and the year’s before and the year’s before and years’ before—layers of organic memory that,


do not reach the stone’s most recent memory. The stone takes no notice.
And the man does not sink with the stone into murkiness. The morning calls
him to his desire, so he chooses to return to the work at hand. There is a garden
to plow and disk. There is corn to plant and tend. There are nettles to uproot and remove.

Despite the threat of frost or hail or rabbit or deer, he trusts
that in August there will be sweet corn and tomatoes and beans.
He will gather some in and eat. He will gather some in to store. And
he will gather and save the best for next year’s seeds. These are the act of love.

“Called to Faith” originally appeared in The BeZine, @2016 Michael Dickel, along with the other two poems, but was written in the same year as “Tacit.”

All pictures in the Long Island Bedroom Window and Shadow of Myself series were taken with a NIKON Z 7-2 camera and Nikkor 24.0-70.0 mm f/4.0 lens.
Photos 1–6 for the LI Bedroom Window series were taken September 27, 2021, around 5:15 PM, 7–9 on September 28, 2021, around 5:45 AM.
#1 — ISO 3200, 44mm, f4, 1/125 sec
#2 — ISO 2200, 41mm, f4, 1/125 sec
#3 — ISO 2500, 69mm, f4, 1/125 sec
#4 — ISO 2800, 51mm, f4, 1/125 sec
#5 — ISO 3200, 50mm, f4, 1/100 sec
#6 — ISO 1250, 59mm, f4, 1/125 sec
#7 — ISO 1800, 31mm, f4, 1/125 sec
#8 — ISO 4500, 67mm, f4, 1/60 sec
#9 — ISO 4500, 60mm, f4, 1/60 sec

Photos for this series were cropped and adjusted for tone, contrast, and color in Adobe Photoshop™. The digital interior landscape was created using Adobe PhotoShop™ with photos 5, 8, and 9. Adobe Photoshop™ reduced the JPG size to transfer to WordPress.

All photos for the Shadow of Myself series were taken September 26, 2021, around 4:00 PM.
#1 — ISO 450, 70mm, f4, 1/125 sec
#2 — ISO 200, 70mm, f5, 1/250 sec
#3 — ISO 400, 38mm, f4, 1/160 sec
#4 — ISO 640, 38mm, f4, 1/125 sec

These photos are “from the camera,” transferred to Apple® Photos App, which reduced the JPG size to export for WordPress.

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