2013 Aug 21, 3:04am
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Distant Light

At barely four inches tall, it’s not a grand landscape on the scale of a Church or a Bierstadt, but it feels so much larger to me. Distant Light looks north along the Lake Michigan shore from a spot above the mouth of the Kalamazoo River. At the farthest point of land lies the lighthouse that guards the entrance to Macatawa Bay in Holland, Michigan. That reference in the title is clear enough; it’s the rest of the story that’s not so obvious.

Distant Light, 2012, Acrylics on Panel, 3 15/16 x 12 1/16 in., by David Jay Spyker

Distant Light, 2012, Acrylics on Panel, 3 15/16 x 12 1/16 in., by David Jay Spyker

The season is pushing hard through autumn after all the summer people have abandoned the lakeshore. The days are growing shorter, the weather’s character has changed to match, and the sun is nearing the flat, dark line of the lake’s horizon. The light will soon be lost to another day.

I cherish this time of year.

My wife and I have walked these shores countless times in all seasons – so much time spent and memory earned. Trips to Saugatuck, South Haven, Holland, Grand Haven; the lake is never far from your mind here. My parents used to own a home on the lake not far from that lighthouse. Visits always meant a walk on the beach.

Tricia and I were married on a mist-shrouded June day up that coast, just a twenty-minute walk south of Big Red. It was an amazing gift of a day. It had rained nine inches over night and into that morning, and from the bluff we could only see a six foot strip of water through the rolling fog – sometimes even the shore was hidden. There could not have been a more magical day to marry my best friend at the lake in June; the quiet and peace… I still get chills when I think about it.

This little painting is a distillation of two decades worth of memories and emotions. The distance here is both physical and temporal. The light sits at the tip of the farthest point, it sets over the water and slants in to illuminate a patch of dune, and it shines on in our hearts and minds.


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