Oh, the sun on the tree outside my window! It shines on exactly half of it, as if the tree were in a spotlight, dividing it precisely into dark and brightest gold, just the way a half moon is divided. The side of the trunk where the light hits shows me every gnarl, every knot: the dark side is a mystery. Later in the day, when the sun is higher, the whole of it will be clear, but not as golden-clear as the bright side of the tree this morning.
The leaves, too, show golden this morning, but only on the side hit by the rising sun. The rest of them is dark, still asleep -- its Saturday, they murmur, leave us alone. No, it's time to get up! Time to eat! We'll photosynthesize all day, make liquid sugar out of whatever the roots send up to us, enough to feed the whole forty feet of us, every last one of us and everyone yet to come, the as-yet-invisible children of next spring, when we have all turned brown and fallen to the ground. C'mon, Lazybones, the sun is up!
In the city, it is the sides of buildings that go golden in the morning sun: it creeps over the East River and the faces of the buildings turn pink, first, in their awakening, and then golden, their myriad windows glinting like diamonds, reflecting the sun so faithfully that they hurt our eyes and we cannot look at them directly at them. The far sides of the buildings are still asleep: silent, cool and grey, the streets black and quiet: not many cars at this time on a Saturday, just pigeons marching along the gutters, pecking at crumbs, the first fruit stand workers setting out their wares, sweeping their sidewalks, hosing them down.
All ancient peoples divinized the sun. It brings us life and growth. The ancient Christians found the Greek sun god Apollo a natural image for Christ, and borrowed imagery, allusion, even temples to commend Christianity to pagans accustomed to his cult. December 25, our Christmas Day was, before we appropriated it as Jesus' birthday, the Roman natalis solis invicti, the "birth of the victorious sun."
The little spot of Venus crept coyly across the face of the sun this week, an encounter visible to the naked eye only once a century or so -- although you wouldn't want to look at it with your naked eye, as that sight would be your last. Christians do not have a figure comparable to Venus, the goddess of love: the Virgin Mary is much more maternal than Venus, and much shyer in our memory. But she is described in Revelation as "clothed with the sun" -- at least, we think that's her -- and the people of Mexico, who know a thing or two about hot weather, always show their beloved virgen de Guadeloupe surrounded by a nimbus of sunshine. She appeared to a peasant, to a man of color as she was a woman of color, and brought forth flowers in the winter. Clothed with the sun, she could do that. She had him take the flowers to the bishop, as a sign that the crown and the powerful Church were not the highest authority in Mexico, that there was one still higher, that God saw the poor and loved them and expected them to be well-treated. Maybe she wasn't so shy after all.
The gold has faded from the flank of my tree by now: it's higher in the sky, and everything is soft and bright. The sky is blue, blue. The work of the leaves is well underway; everyone is awake. Good morning.