Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Is it Better in the Dark?


Right now you are probably looking at a pretty bright, clear screen. Clean printing; an image or two; a headline and the paragraphs of content. There are pull down menus from your browser, each with a word or symbol. You might have a few additional windows open, with images peeking around the edges of this one.

If you turn away from your screen, chances are your environment is fairly well lit also. Overhead lights, desk lamp,nightstand, light from the flatscreen tv, from the streetlights outside, from the headlights of passing vehicles.
At this very moment, your eyes are bombarded with lots and lots of visual information. It's streaming in through your optical nerve, mainlining into your brain. It's all clamoring for your mental attention. There is no mystery or ambiguity in what you are seeing.It's all bright, well lit, and in your face.

Your brain is so busy processing the visual information, how can you have time to really consider what you are seeing?

Would you like to put a little mystery back into life?

Let's try a brief experiment.
After you read the next paragraph, close your eyes and think about what you've read. You can think about it for as long as you like, but try for 20-30 seconds.

Okay, here's the paragraph:

The dimming light shone through the old window, barely illuminating the glass tumblers on the small maple table. Behind the table, the entrance to the tap room had a chalk calendar written above the door: the white chalk marks glowed in the
twilight. No light came from the massive fireplace opening, as the summer heat provided enough warmth. On the long dining table, plates stacked with pancakes, a meat pie and a small wheel of cheese waited for supper guests.

(you can close your eyes now...)

Are you back yet?

How was that for you? Did you manage to make it at least 20 seconds? It can be difficult to do that. I don't know about you, but I'm addicted to visual information. Right now I have 6 windows open on my computer, and I like it that way.

But I do find it refreshing to take a break from the visual overload.

About now you are probably wondering "Why is she writing about this in a Landmark Society blog?" We work in a visual medium - the architectural heritage of our community. We work to help people enjoy the visual medium, but also to "read" the historic stories the architecture embodies in its visual content. That takes practice and focus, to "weed out" the visual distractions.

Fortunately, practicing those visual skills can be lots of fun - especially when it involves popcorn and marshmallows.

On the evenings of July 27 (and again August 24) you can come to the Stone-Tolan House Museum to experience the site in a lesser light.

"Full Moon Flashlight Tours" will feature tours in the oldest remaining house and tavern in Monroe County, some lawn game activities, and then a gathering around the campfire for complimentary popcorn, and sharing of games and stories. You may also purchase a s'mores kit for that ultimate retro campfire experience. Bring your own folding chair, or sit on the ground or our wooden benches. .More details are here .

You'll enjoy the chance to "rest" yourself from the visual bombardment of modern life, slow down, and really see what is in front of you.

And who knows what you will discover? Nothing makes the past seem more real than the lengthening shadows in a dimly lit 200 year old tavern room.

posted by Cindy Boyer, Director of Museums and Education