As I walked past my sleeping son's bedroom, the play of

light on his ceiling recalled a private, childhood wonder.

I would lie in bed late at night, watching light from rolling

city traffic transform itself into a set of inexplicable

images that would form slowly on one part of the ceiling,

move steadily across the top and then glide off down the

wall in a jazzy sort of slow motion before slinking off into

the night.  Those evening light shows created many a

transcendent moment before I fell off to sleep, enveloped

and tingled by the bebop mysteriŽes of urban night.

The patterns seemed to defy the logic of intuitive physics,

though I knew it was just a fortuitous placement of

venetian blinds.  Part of what made them precious was their

etherial nature.  As soon as they appeared, they began to

disassemble and disappear.  They made sense, and they

didn't.  They were part of the natural urban flow, yet they

felt slightly beyond order and control.

These memories took me, in turn, to a similar experience

from a youthful of country summers.  As my buddies and I

were hauled from one activity to another in the Leventhal's

trusty station wagon, we'd make up stories about cloud pat­terns

we could see.  Our imaginations soared, there in the

country, there in the day.

Urban or rural, a constant, universal childhood joy is the simple

opportunity to manipulate for your own ends a

world designed for something else.

Having, but not really having,  control over the

external environment feels a perfect relation to the natural

order of things, whether those things are clouds, fields,

cluttered urban lots or light patterns on ceilings.  And, in

the endlessly funky arcade of the child's mind, there is

always the wish for more.  The perfect, never ending game;

the wish that it would go on forever, the wish that it would

always remain.  Just so.

But as we were taken down those country roads, we would

lose sight of the clouds; patterns would become harder to

discern with the dark.  As soon as the game began, it would

begin to end.  The delicate balance between the kids (giggling

at each other's cloud plays) and the delicate balance

between the kids and the sky (the amount of available light)

none of these could last.

As the sky darkened and it became harder to wheedle

shapes and stories out of it, the magic of the moment would

surely and sadly slip.

Today, I think a lot about kids being bumped from one

fragile activity to another; from one fragile friendship to

another; from one fragile age to another.  Bumped and bumped

until adulthood.  Until they confront the last patterns of

the night; abstract, deep, frightening.