The Maxfield Parish Effect
It begins, or becomes noticeable, around seven pm. The rounded hills running along the east side of the valley are suddenly awash in an ethereal, lilac light not present most of the year. I can only liken it to the quality found in many of Maxfield Parish’s paintings. Perhaps it’s due in part to our location at 45.516976 N latitude, and at this time of year sunlight must pass through miles of ozone, soot, pollen, sloughed off skin cells from a few billion people, carbon-based energy fumes, a myriad frantic insects in either a mating euphoria or lingering death buzz, water vapor from the transpiration from a land turned green by summer sun, the belched gas from herds of countless bovines busily chewing their cud, and who knows what other collections and amalgamations of aerial rubbish are suspended in the air this time of year. Whatever the cause the result is mesmerizing. The unworldly pastel glow suffuses everything with what seems like a physical harmony, work and play both cease. There is a sense that one could reach out and embrace the light as one might a friend. It doesn’t last long, a couple of weeks in late August or early September, and the effect lasts just the time it takes for the shadow of the western hills to climb and darken those to the east. By October we are preparing the cave for winter, hoping that perhaps this year we might have sunshine to brighten the snow occasionally. We read and make long lists from nursery catalogues, mumble incoherently about spring, and wonder if we should buy a Maxfield Parish calendar next year.