The morning began with a question, Steve asking me from a different room, “What are you doing?” I replied, “Just looking at the caustics on the wall.” He chuckled, probably remembering that he is the one who introduced the concept to me. I had always accepted the light bouncing on water and other surfaces. He explained the science behind what I was seeing.
He came over to stand beside me. I pointed at the light and shadows shimmering on the wall above the bookcase. He walked forward, and then with his back to me, said as if it was the most clear thing in the world, something like, “Formally caustics are where the light field intensity reaches infinity and …” He added some other mellifluous statements about diffraction, refraction, reflection and so forth.
I’ m not a scientist but somehow the words sounded like poetry, as beautiful as the gentle burble of water flowing over rocks. And like water over rocks, the words were gone too fast for me to hold them. I had understood just enough of what he said to understand that I really didn’t understand what he was saying at all. “Can you repeat what you just said?” I asked hopefully. He turned around. “Hunh, repeat what?”
With some encouragement, he did try to repeat what he’d said. Wasn’t quite the same. The science was there but not the poetry of the earlier moment. Even those words didn’t stick with me after he’d left. And I was reminded of a statement someone said about the physicist Richard Feynman, that in the moment as he stared at you explaining how the universe worked, you felt as if you understood it all … and then after he walked away … poof. Well, after Steve walked away, I meandered about the house for a bit photographing light and shadows on the ceilings, walls and even the following image of light striking a part of the oven. I think I see the poetry. I just don’t have the words. 😉