We had spent the day at the Wild Animal Park just north of San Diego, riding the open train around the grassy fields where elephants and zebras and antelope ostensibly roamed free. My daughter's cousins had grown up in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, so this display was somewhat tame for them. My brother was a pilot for Mission Aviation Fellowship in the northeast jungles of Zaire before moving his family to Kinshasa when he took over the mission operations for Africa. In any case kids are kids, so trains and animals worked to fulfill my goal, as the grownup in the group, to get them tired and hungry and thus ready for an early night. Back home on Nobel Drive, the kids waited for dinner out on the porch facing the darker side of the apartment, away from the brightly lit Mormon Temple. I was busy ordering pizza to make food appear without much trouble, when my daughter suddenly ran back in screaming "Mommy it's the blue light of consciousness, it's back!"
I knew that a neighbor across the street had let the blue light bulb in their porch lantern go out some months before. My daughter had grown up hearing me call every bluish light we encountered "the blue light of consciousness," as if it were following us methodically throughout life's journey like an enlightened personal guide, giving our whereabouts its glowing stamp of approval. The phrase came from Vladimir Nabokov's description of a train compartment night light in Speak, Memory, where he and his brother traveled wide awake as their aristocratic family was whisked away from Lenin's new red state of Russia.
The blue light bulb was indeed back on, shedding a certain gravitas on the standard faux-Latin residential architecture of UTC La Jolla. I had moved us up here from a Balboa Park neighborhood, to where even the white kids spoke languages other than English as children of foreign graduate students. We had been delighted the year before to be welcomed by this cosmic azure reminder that we were, unquestionably, exactly where we were meant to be.
But my brother's kids did not know any of this. Still, they joyously championed my daughter's cause, joining her in jumping up and down and proclaiming, "it's the blue light of consciousness, the blue light of consciousness!"
7 JULY 2019