Thursday, October 3, 2013

Refracted Versus Reflected Light

This morning I watched the hummers on the patio. If the weather is good, if the yellow jackets don't chase me away, I sit in the chair under the slatted patio cover and watch them zoom around five feeders. From this direction I can see the garden, the orange groves and the sun rising behind the hills across the road. I have been facing this direction since just after Labor Day.

I laughed at the hummers sweet little brown heads bobbing at the feeders, but the desire to see their brilliant colors made me move to the other side of the patio and face the house. Now I saw that one bobbing head was brown, now ruby red, now brown, now ruby red. Several other hummers were flashing iridescent green.

A hummingbird's coloring comes from refracted light. This is the explanation from  All About Birds website

Adding to the diversity of avian colors are colors produced by the structure of the feather. The best known example is the gorget (throat feathers) of many hummingbird species. The iridescent colors of the gorget are the result of the refraction of incident light caused by the microscopic structure of the feathers. The refraction works like a prism, splitting the light into rich, component colors. At certain angles little or no light is reflected back to the viewer and the gorget can appear black. As the viewing angle changes, the refracted light becomes visible in a glowing, shimmering iridescent display.”

Photo courtesy of

I sat still for several moments before the difference between reflected and refracted light dropped into my heart.

Reflected light is all about me. Lower case me, ego me. Reflected light begs questions such as why did a hummer pee on my forehead as soon as I moved to the other side of the patio? Why did a bee get tangled in my hair and sting me on the side of the head? (The right side.) Why is it too blowy for me to journal outside comfortably?

Refracted light has to do with Big Me, soul Me. The Me I glimpse as I disappear into a line of writing or a flash of hummingbird. 

Thanks to my hummingbird reminders, the question of the day is: how can I allow my refracted light to shine?

What makes your light shine???

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