All the Light You See is from the Past

All the Light You See by Alicia Eggert

“When was that?” is the most common question you hear in our post-pandemic era.

The years of 2020/2021 are a blur of memories, a kaleidoscope of boredom and panic with the first days of Covid Time crystal-clear (remember the empty grocery store shelves?) but later periods inaccessible, like a hard drive that has been wiped clean.

What was I doing in 2021? There was the intimate horror of January 6th in DC and then a long blank spell until a Sunday morning in March when I biked across the city to Rosedale Recreation Center to get my J&J vaccine.

I can picture the gymnasium with precision. A socially-distanced line of folks waiting to get shots. A check-in station with a pair of health workers. Nurses at desks. “Do you want the shot in your left or right arm?” And then a fifteen minute wait as I looked around the scene, a sense of relief settling over me: at last, life could get back to normal.

Of course, it never did, for the days lost to Covid Time were gone forever.

I recently went on a walking tour of Georgetown Glow, the outdoor public art exhibition featuring light installations alive in the darkness.

This isn’t the first year for Georgetown Glow. I’ve seen it in other years and I recalled one winter when they had pieces along the C&O Canal, reflecting off the still water.

“When was that?” I asked the curator, for I could not recall the year. We were standing outside an installation called the Butterfly Effect, which were big glowing butterflies placed in front of Grace Church.

Was it before the pandemic? During the pandemic? Did Georgetown Glow happen in 2020 or 2021?

The time just slid away, as if years had been stolen from me. Thank god for Flickr, where I keep my photos. I was able to check there. They had art along the canal much further back than I realized: 2015.

And looming over the present is the fear: what’s next? I certainly didn’t expect that Donald Trump be President, a pandemic would shut down the world or that fascists would attack the Capitol.

That’s a lot of Black Swan events. And all in year: 2020.

Last night, I met friends at Martin’s Tavern. It’s a Georgetown institution that’s been open since 1933. You can sit in the booth where JFK proposed to Jackie Bouvier.

Martin’s is a neighborhood spot, tourist destination and an old rich white people playground all in one. And it was absolutely packed on a Friday evening, with people on all sides of us as we squeezed into a non-JFK booth.

“There’s going to be a war in five years,” one of my friends said as an opener. He believes it will be with China. “So drink up!”

In other words: YOLO.

The most striking part of Georgetown Glow is All the Light You See by Alicia Eggert which lights up the darkness along the Potomac River. The web site describes it best:

Light takes a moment to travel from one point to another, and to reach our eyes. The travel time varies – from eight minutes for the light from the sun to reach the earth, to millions of years from a star at the edge of our universe. This means that the information that light brings us is always dated. This is the focus of All the Light You See; a poetic statement written in light that changes meaning with a small intervention. Part of the text in “All the Light You See is From the Past” occasionally switches off, simplifying the message to “All You See is Past.” The installation is a reflection on mortality, reminding us that in no time at all, we, too, will belong to the past.

Covid Time, like all time, is gone and cannot be recovered.

No one knows what is next. Black Swans may abound or we may have seen the last of them.  All we can do is make the best use of the time we have.


Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer, photographer and web person from Washington, DC. The author of several novels, Joe won the City Paper Fiction Competition in 2020. In his free time, he enjoys wandering about the city taking photos.

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