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Christine's lamps

By 6:52 AM ,

Christine had us over for dinner last month. After dinner we were talking about art and objects. That's when she brought out two of her prized possessions; both were lamps. This one, she bought from an artist in Japan. They're mushroom caps that light up on a piece of real driftwood. There's funghi growing on the sidewall of the driftwood that are actual dried mushrooms. One of the mushrooms conceals a light switch for the whole piece. You slide it back and forth to turn the light on/off. It's like a Scooby Doo setup where you tug on a decoy book in a library and the wall parts into a secret room. It was a pretty magical object.

The second piece was slightly more challenging for me, at first. I have a visceral aversion to certain patterns, especially a grouping of spheres or circles. It's somewhat unpredictable. I'd love to one day figure out why that is... This piece did NOT take me there, to the bad place, but it was still walking the outer edge of danger. If the holes were any closer together, I probably would have ran out of the building screaming.

However, once Christine lit it up, all was forgotten. It was other worldly, like I was looking at a distant planet through a telescope.

"Try to pick it up. It's really heavy." she pointed to the grapefruit sized orb.

Compared to the mushroom light, which was featherlight, she was right, it was much heavier than it looked. It could have been a doorstop. The thick walls had holes cleanly punched out of it that created the dramatic light; we were all trying to guess how the artist, also Japanese, put it all together so perfectly. Christine explained the ordeal of safely transporting each piece all the way from Japan without damage from improper packaging or handling.

Above all things I'm fussy about, I may be the most unforgiving about lighting. I don't know how it works, but I know when it does. And when it doesn't I can't relax in a space. I know it's a complicated science and I've always marveled at the mastery of lighting guys on the films I've worked on when they fix bad light.

Sometimes when I drive through the city at night, I see poor lighting through a window and it brings me down. I instantly feel lonely, lackluster, drafty, joyless, vacant and sad. It's not a bright or dark distinction, either. It's a quality thing. It's one thing to have bad lighting where you work, but it's unthinkable to have bad lighting where you live, in your domain, your kingdom. Lighting is that personal. I don't know how it isn't.

Conversely, I've been comforted by good lighting in other windows. This kind of light can loosen me up, get me excited or give me hope. No kidding. It invites me to imagine what kind of life unfolds in that room. It makes me want to park my car and peek in. But I think there are laws against that, so I keep driving.

Anyway, this season I have a few unresolved lighting setups in my house that I must address. I'm sure they are affecting the way I'm functioning in that particular space. Well, I avoid it altogether. And with San Francisco's price of real estate (still), that's just squandering good square footage.

Christine, the crabcakes were delectable, but the real treat was how the table was lit.

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