Monday, April 12, 2010

Of Shadows and Light

"I see only forms that are lit up and forms that are not. There is only light and shadow."
Francisco de Goya

Lately I have been pondering where I come from. To be more specific, I have been thinking about what it means for my life's journey, for all of us, to be born out of the darkness of our mother's wombs and into the brightness of this world. What a shock it must have been, this first passage from total dark to total light with no real in between, no buffer zone, no explanation except perhaps some inherent knowledge in our souls. This acute beginning becomes the sequence of our lives, a circular odyssey, from night to day, lights off {flick} lights on, eyes shut in the sweet darkness of dreams and then open wide to the reality of life.

The Japanese have a word for this "lightness-darkness", it's called Notan. It has nothing to do with colour, it's the ability to see things in terms of black and white and build strength in imagery and composition. I think the concept of Notan is mostly used by artists, painters to be exact, and I cannot tell you how many times I have stood back from my work, eyes squinted to see the play of negative and positive, because the character of any good painting is resolved in the arrangement of shadow and light. Without a strong Notan design, both color and line will fail to reach their full impact and the quality of the work will be inferior.

Darkness-Lightness. How do I apply Notan to my daily life, my circuitous pilgrimage, from the threshold of the dawn to the curtain of the night? If I concentrate on the simple principle of the pattern of the visible and the obscured I begin to see how this works for me. Light becomes Life: growth and warmth, vision and awareness, creativity and exertion, presence and passion. This wondrous Light cannot and does not exist without Darkness, without it's depth and power and the vital template of Notan. Dark becomes Rejuvenation: intimate and internal, deep-seated and central, soothing and restful, silence and peace.

Light and Dark, Life and Rejuvenation. In my day to day journey, Notan becomes Balance. The tapestry of my life will be inferior if the balance of my illumination to my obscurity isn't whole and essential. If I am too much in the bright and shiny world then my mind, my body and my soul get no rest, no renewal, no peace. And if I am too much in the nebulous and pitch-black cosmos then the whole of me knows no vitality, no nurturing, no perception. The building blocks of a strong character and life composition depend on the Balance of Notan, as it is the arrangement of light and dark elements that create all the beauty regardless of any other components introduced along the way.

I find the keys to the doorway of my life's journey lie in the intricate pattern of light and shadow. Everyday the door opens to me, and on the threshold await the promising seeds of all creativity, all genius, all imagination. I pick up the spade and plant them in the rich and powerful darkness and watch them grow into the vital and brilliant light.

The gorgeous photograph of Oriental Blossoms illuminating the concept of shadow and light is from Rose at: please go visit her Shop to see all of her wondrous photography!
I wish you all the keys to your beautiful life's Notan, today and always.


  1. Very inspiring, as always... You light up OUR lives, Kristin. X0X0X

  2. Wonderful post Kristin :O)

  3. Beautiful post, Kristin and beautiful photo from Rose/JaneElizabeths! xoxo

  4. What a beautiful word "Notan" and inspiring post. Thank you Kristin :)

  5. beautiful kristen-- each day can be a rebirth and your words are reminders of that--


  6. Once again Dear Kristin ... beautiful thoughts to begin a new week and perhaps much more ...

  7. Thanks for sharing your enlightened thoughts with us, Kristin. I know it takes a lot of time and energy for these compositions, but we surely appreciate them. And thanks for sharing JaneElizabeth's photo too... so lovely.

  8. Thank you Kristin, I learned a new word and it's meaning today reading your essay, Notan. I was feeling very sad about an Etsy artist in South Africa who is dying, very young. Today I found an old fashioned reproduction tin kaleidoscope while on a walk in a neighborhood across the city of San Francisco. I went for the walk in an infrequently visited neighborhood to lighten my woe, a tourist in my own town Illuminated mandalas in kaleidoscopes enchanted me for hours as a child. It seems they still do, I had to buy it. When my kids were little the only affordable kaleidoscopes were made out of cardboard and they were not as nice as this reproduction from my childhood made out of tin. made by Schylling $ 8
    Your essay, Jane's beautiful tree in blossom photo and my toy. Good medicine. XO Nancy