The Light She Sees
Rose McManus Coleman
There is a crunching sound as we walk the trail, underfoot are leaves, rock, gravel, and dirt. Wordlessly one of us will stop and the other turns in the same direction, often seeing the same thing – a shaft of light through trees or a unique arrangement of mushrooms.
Rose wears a colorful jacket for warmth and thick leggings to protect her legs. (She does tend to walk off into the waist high weeds to get closer to a subject for a photograph.) She carries a small back pack from which I have only seen her camera and keys emerge. I am not in shape to keep up with her and she walks slow, to accommodate me. Luckily, she stops often to look at the details of nature. We stop to watch a blue heron slow walk on long legs around the edge of the lake. Rose quietly moves around, to change the angle from which to take the picture. After, she comes over to sit by me and we let the grace of the heron, and the quiet of the park, settle in.
Rose walks every day, near her home or in state parks. From these daily jaunts, she creates unique art. The images are evocative later enhanced by being re-photographed through glass. She does similar re-seeing with her paintings. She plays with the light until new images take form from the previous.
Light is her brush. Light is her paint. Light is her inspiration.
It is not lost on me that light has also been her career. She works with the “Points of Light” nonprofit organization, that shines a light on every day heroes. Points of Light sits at the intersection of individuals, nonprofits, and corporations to forge new connections that accelerate change around the world.
Though we find time to walk together infrequently, the times we do are filled with light. We walked the woods of the state park and around the lake near my house. We walked the urban landscape to decide where to eat and to stop so we can talk about books.
Rose is busy. It is a challenge for her to take time to read. Her job consumes a lot of her energy and time, as does her art. And yet she talks excitedly about all of it - her work, her art, her photographs, and the book she is writing.
“Where does she find the time,” I scribble in the margin of my notes, but I never get a chance to ask her this.
I asked her about her home office, her art space, what books are there, what would she change about it, if anything. Her answers quickly add to my own stack of “to be read” books.
One of her recent reads is The Thread Collectors by Alyson Richman and Shaunna J. Edwards. Rose mentioned liking it because it showed the strength of women, even in the face of mortal danger. It was written collaboratively by the authors who were influenced by their family histories. It is an intriguing story woven around two women willing to do whatever it takes for love and freedom during the chaos of the Civil War. I ordered it and read it quickly. It reminded me of when I was young, I embroidered then, and wish my stitches had held more meaning.
Rose mentions The Isolation Journals as she is talking about her art. It turns out to be not a book but a website, an online community for writers and artists. I sign up quickly, anxious to see how this it works.
Next up, is My Inner Sky, by Mari Andrew It sits in Rose’s office and I am not surprised. The colorful cover reminds me of her paintings and images. This will be the third recommendation I pick up later that day, since Rose mentioned it. It's all about embracing the changes that happen to us when faced with hard times.
I forget we are having an interview and fall happily into conversation. We discuss how we would change our respective offices, work spaces. I would expand mine, make it bigger to accommodate another desk and a table. She would get a place to rest that is not at all like a couch or chair. She wants a chaise lounge. I instantly imagine lush blue velvet. I can see her leaning back on a pillow, a small blanket across her knees. She has a book in her hand, closed except for one finger that remembers where she left off before she gazed off into the distance through her window. The light of the late afternoon sun moves across her, reminding her of all the light that she sees … and shares with the world.