Komorebi (木漏れ日), is a Japanese term which is hard to translate. Roughly it means “the scattered light that filters through when sunlight shines through trees”. It is made up of three “Kanji” or Chinese characters: “tree” or “trees”, “leaking-through” or “escape”, and “light” or “sun”. Sunshine filtering through the trees.
The times I have been blessed enough to be in the woods when the trees leak light have been moments sublime for me. I am stopped, quite literally in my tracks, and rooted in place to marvel, wonder and be amazed at just how beautiful it really is.
And every time I am lucky enough to witness, I feel like I am gifted with something uniquely special, like being selected for the promise of grace - some sort of tree infested light offering. Some new merit that I didn’t deserve...
Except I think that is why there is a word for it...because the offering up of it, has the power to change you. To watch the light slice through the trees, branches and leaves, and to pierce you similarly. Cutting you to your marrow in a delicate surgery of spirit.
Whenever I witness komorebi, I transcend myself. I am transported to new places within myself that I didn’t previously have access to...it has something to do with the way the light pierces, envelopes, cuts, strains, pushes, softens...it is like a rain shower of light that leaves me feeling like I am part of a greater whole. Baptized, if you will.
I almost feel naked, and wet...except it is light that soaks me to my bosom. Somehow the filtration of light through the air giving trees makes me lightheaded. I am bathed in light, softened by the muted and cascading brilliant light. Like a light waterfall...the sunlight caressing the landscape, holding it like water free falls down a mountainside.
And just for a moment, everything slows. My thoughts, my pulse, my mind and all of me centralizes, bearing witness to komorebi. I am sad that we don’t have a word for this. I mean, I am fine adopting the Japanese one. But really, I think the fact that we don’t have a word for this type of amazing moment is part of what is wrong with us as a culture, a society.
When I first moved back to California and had the audacity to begin to reclaim my life as a person, having escaped the confines of marital life where I was just a server, a doer, a get things done person in everyone else’s life, I would go for long hikes in the morning on the weekends. Usually quite early. If my timing was good, I reached a bench, deep within the woods where I could witness Komorebi every single time. It was magical!
I would huff and puff to get there, fearing the entire journey out that I might miss it. But I didn’t. I would arrive just as the light began to cut through the branches of this old oak tree. I would sit on the bench and just close my eyes and drink in all the glorious light. I realize that me closing my eyes may seem odd given the light show that was before me...but I had to, it was too much and it brought me to tears and to this day I cannot tell you why.
So I would sit in a deep wood, head back, eyes closed and prepare myself for the vision that was before me. I would gather myself up in all the ways that I had bled myself dry all week long and I would prepare to unify myself again. And when I was ready, I would tilt my head forward and breathe and then open my eyes to the komorebi before me.
And in that moment everything within me was reorganized, was realigned with all that was special and important to me. Some spiritual calibration, aligning my vibration with that of a komorebi in a deep wood, away from all the clamors of modern life.
I would sit there and let all the light before me rearrange me into a better version of myself.
The dog and I would sit patiently and allow the moment to fail before us...because komorebi only lasts for a moment and then it is gone, at least until the next weekend.
I learned that as the seasons changed so did komorebi...one day as I hurriedly hiked the path to the place where I got to witness the dawning of this miracle, I realized that as the earth tilted and slanted and tumbled through time, it altered the timing and angle of the light. I became educated that komorebi doesn’t happen in the same place all the time...making my chance encounter with it all the more special.
And I allowed myself to feel chosen, selected to be present and witness this whole amazing feat. And realized that I was now different than I was before komorebi. And perhaps, if I continued to spend a great deal of idle time walking in forests, I might be graced with more moments when komorebi changed me completely from someone who didn’t have time for such things, into a person whose life’s purpose is to place herself in the path of komorebi moments forever. That perhaps I could really find solace and escape from the prison of my own mind, with light and tress being my most ardent and loving teachers.
Photo: Rob Visser Photography (2020). (dreaminginthedeepsouth)