In the middle of a cul de sac in the town where we used to live is a little island of grass and a single, nondescript street lamp that holds the stature of myth in our family.
I speak of The Green Light.
The Green Light, so named and mythologized by my daughter at two years of age, cast a peculiar green shade from its vantage point at the end of our street. I’m sure that with a little while of dedicated Googling I could determine the reason this light cast such a verdant hue, though as you’ll see I’m not so interested in the light itself as what it represents and how it came to embed itself in the young imagination of a family just getting its feet underneath itself.
My daughter discovered it. Of course, it was always there, flicking on automatically at dusk and shutting itself off at dawn. But neither my wife nor I ever paid it any attention until it had captured our daughter’s imagination a way that very little else had before it.
My daughter G was captivated by it, and how different it was from the more pedestrian (ahem) light in front of our own home. She noticed it, in the way that a two-year-old notices things: with the realization that something out of the ordinary can transport us into a different world altogether.
“It’s The Green Light!” G would exclaim as we drove home, or left the front door, each time like a bolt of recognition that a long-lost friend had made the visit from far away.
We would drive past our house and drive ’round the cul de sac to visit it, sometimes multiple times, to satisfy G’s desire to see it. If the weather cooperated, when I got home from work we would walk together to pay it a visit. On more than one occasion, G would hug the stone lamppost. And on every occasion we would flirt with a tantrum at the prospect of being forced to leave its presence. The light had a personality, a life beyond our visits, and was the topic of toddler conversations and imaginings.
It was the first instance we witnessed of my daughter noticing something in the outside world and internalizing it into her vision of the universe. It was different, and so was special, and had nothing to do with her parents.
I desperately wished I had thought to document some of the tales that G told us about The Green Light; the specifics of the stories are lost. But if you ask G today, she still remembers it (as “part of the Old House").
It has worked its way back into my consciousness—in part because my son is now approaching that magical age of discovery, and in part because I’ve spent a great deal of time lately thinking about where we anchor our creative energies.
This lamppost in a far north Chicago suburb became a totem for a little imagination, the source of focus for a mind teeming with ideas and hungry for explanations.
A mind not all that different from the more grown-up ones that you and I try daily to “manage” or “control” or “organize.”
We each tend to cluster our creative energies on something, and usually the brightest or shiniest or most immediately appealing.
We need a beacon.
For my daughter, it used to be The Green Light (and is now replaced by her various “kids” and fairies and art projects). For you or I, it might be our Work, or a Blog, or a Person. It may be a healthy focus, or it may not be so positive right now. But I think there must be value in recognizing It for what It is and looking deeper into how it informs your worldview.
And of course we can’t miss the symbolism of a Green Light meaning “GO,” can we?
So what’s your Green Light, and where is it telling you to go?