The Beauty of the Bending of Light

12/10/21

Category: Beauty, Short Stories

Enjoy this magical story just in time for Christmas.

The snow outside packed me in tight like the layers of ash that suffocated Pompeii. So much snowfall had dumped on my little cabin that I could barely see outside my window the small town of Fractal Falls, skirting all around me. Ice melting on the glass afforded me some visibility. Strangely enough, it hadn’t snowed anywhere else. I was living in my own personal snow-globe. But what happened next absolutely amazed me. As I turned on the white lights to my Christmas tree, a world of mathematical equations projected on the walls inside my cozy cottage.

Light bends, as we know, when it passes through substances of different densities. And, in this case, light passed through the glass ornaments, hanging on my evergreen, extrapolating a symphony of numbers that danced all around me. I looked curiously at the fragile knick-knacks. But I was left mesmerized by the fact that there were no numbers inscribed on them, only beautifully hand-crafted artisanship with the artist’s name, Fibonacci, etched onto each one.

I even thought back to when my wife bought them. I can remember she was extremely particular about purchasing only glass ornaments from an eccentric glass-blower in town. I recalled this quite vividly on account of it being a bizarre circumstance—the artisan was an elderly Italian gentleman, whom was born blind. He would not accept monetary compensation for his work but rather demanded getting to know his customers by spending time with each one, doing whatever the person enjoyed most. “An hour with me today, and we’re all squared away,” went his unorthodox payment philosophy. How he sustained himself, unconventionally, I have no idea. I do know, however, that just as mysteriously as he arrived, he also departed. Therefore, the mystery of the sudden projection of mathematical equations continued.

The other surprise was that I understood their meaning, as well as how to solve them. I say “surprise” because I’m not a mathematician and definitely not a math genius, not even close. Although, I have to admit that after watching the movie Goodwill Hunting, I wanted to be one. But reality shines on me in different ways: I’m a hardworking carpenter and I can fix anything with my hands; after all, I’d built my wife, Darla, this modest home to fill with a quiver full of arrows. Sadly, she never got her wish for a big family or to see me finish the cabin on account of her getting sick and passing last Christmas.

My “Darling Darla,” as I liked to call her, died of an extremely rare form of brain cancer that affects 1 in 1.6 billion people. Her doctor talked about it like it was some kind of miracle: “The chance of someone having it is astronomically exceptional.” That never sat well with me. But not once did Darla ever feel sorry for herself or become bitter. With daring faith, she liked to say, “God’s got a plan for everything and everyone, including you, Jack.” I cringed every time she said it. Why did she say my name and not her own? That’s one of the questions I wish I would’ve asked her.

As my mind rerouted me to the present, I thought about the possibilities available to me with prodigious prowess and power, a feeling, which I haven’t felt for a very long time, snowballed inside me. I became as excited as a kid on Christmas morn. “But I don’t believe in Christmas or miracles or God for that matter,” I said aloud. “Why was this happening to me of all people and on December 25th of all days?” I decorate a tree once a year because that was my best friend’s dying wish. That’s as far as I’ll take Christmas. But I couldn’t deny that something extraordinary was happening.

I decided to trace the Greek letters and numbers on the walls just as they appeared. That way, if this analytic apparition is gone tomorrow, I’ll still have some tangible proof that it was here smiling on me, today. So I did just that. It took me nearly the entire day. And it wasn’t just the writing but the delicious pondering that turned hours into minutes and minutes into hours. The weight of life seemed to melt away and the weight of glory worked assiduously through my pen.

Then I lay next to my enchanted tree with my arms folded behind my head into a large X, marveling at the beauty before me. O how the calculations and conjectures on logs of horizontal pine seemed to take on their own personalities. I even drew them on windows, pots-and-pans and bathroom tiles with a Sharpie.

A ratio, which I remember learning in high school math class, called the “golden mean,” kept showing up, glowing is more like it, on Darla’s favorite blanket that lay on the back of the rocking chair where she liked to knit in a (mathematical) pattern known as “dividing” or “sectioning.” She liked to say, “Rocking but not moving is as paradoxical as using an irrational number to show the rationality and beauty of God’s creation.” Darla was not only darling but dreamy. She was the philosopher, the truth-seeker, the dreamer in the relationship.

I sat up in the middle of the floor of my home and swiveled my neck from side-to-side, noticing slight differences in the way the calculations appeared to me: some more fun and fraternal, while others more serious and inscrutable. I tried not to waste a single second, thinking of anything else. I wouldn’t let myself go to sleep, although, my eyelids felt like magnets and my yawns drew closer together. Finally, sleep lulled me in her arms.

The next morning, I awoke stiff as a board from sleeping on the floor. As soon as I opened my eyes, the numbers had disappeared. Even my sketches packed up and fled. The light that had previously passed through the ornaments, projecting stats and sums, failed to obey my ardent desire for them to return. The other bizarre thing I noticed was that the snow outside my door had completely vanished.

For some strange reason, I felt the need to sit in Darla’s rocking chair. Sad eyes leaked bitter tears. “It isn’t enough that You took my wife from me; now You want to take whatever sanity I have left?” I jabbed at the Almighty. As soon as the words left my mouth, a sea of understanding flooded my dark thoughts, washing over me like a warm blanket.

There were eight ornaments and eight projections, each mathematical calculation corresponding to a letter of the alphabet, spelling: Tommy, Daisy, Brian, Susan, Mark, Steven, Sharon, and Bobby. I stopped rocking. I couldn’t believe it. These were the names of Darla’s best-friend’s kids. The probability of that being a coincidence is one in one hundred quadrillion (1/100,000,000,000,000,000), or 1/1017, which is to say, a bonafide miracle. But I didn’t believe in miracles or did I? Each equation having its own personality began to make more sense. But what flashed across my mind next nearly knocked me off my chair, or, more accurately, Darla’s chair. The “golden mean” or the “divine proportion,” as it’s also called, comes to 1.6. Immediately, my mind raced back to—1 in 1.6 billion people have Darla’s brain cancer. Even the doctor’s words ministered to me: “The chance of someone having it is astronomically exceptional.” Instead of cringing, I felt a sudden release. But it wasn’t until I remembered Darla’s exhortation for me that I wept, uncontrollably: “God’s got a plan for everything and everyone, including you, Jack.”

Faith rushed back into my shrunken heart, filling it with tender hope. I felt the need to contact Darla’s best-friend, Sherry, which happened to be my high-school sweetheart. Sherry had lost her husband in a car accident about two-years-ago, one year before Darla passed. She was a loyal friend and the kindest person I knew aside from Darla. Besides running an entire household, she helped us with doctor’s appointments, cooking meals, and facilitating prayer vigils, during the most difficult time in our lives. I was driven by whatever divine intervention was happening to me to contact her.

I quickly got ready and showed up at Sherry’s door with the ornaments from my tree, one for each of her children. I told her everything in detail. Sherry is a great listener so she stood there taking in every word. She didn’t seem incredulous or bothered that I was there. What was odd was that the look on her face was almost cheerful. It was as if she knew I was coming.

Mid-sentence, I stopped gabbing and asked, “Why don’t you look surprised to see me?”

“Last night I had a strange dream about you, Darla, and me,” she said, blushing. I could tell she felt uncomfortable continuing.

I reassured her, “It’s okay. You didn’t judge me when I told you my crazy story. I promise to listen to every word.” Sherry took a deep breath and jumped right in.

“Okay, here goes,” she sighed. “I dreamt that Darla was the flower girl at our wedding.” She stopped to read my face. I kept quiet. She continued, “She was 45, the age she would be now if she were still with us. All my children were there and so was my Frank. Instead of my father giving me away, it was my late husband. Darla was holding a sunflower, her favorite flower. And you had a gift for each of my children.”

“Let me guess,” I interrupted. “I gave them glass ornaments.”

“Exactly!” she said, tearing up. “And you and I had a gift for Darla—a quiver full of arrows.”

Sherry and I were married in a month. We had our firstborn son eleven months later on Christmas day. We named him Fibonacci.

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Marcela Wilde
Marcela Wilde
6 months ago

Teared up at end. Was nice to enjoy a short meaningful Christmas story. Thank you for sharing!

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