Window (27 Karmelicka street), 1911 by S. G. Żeleński Krakow Stained Glass Workshop, Krakow, Poland

I’m still a little tired this morning, and poured my second cup of coffee. I must have left it in the kitchen, but I didn’t find it. Not in the microwave. Maybe I left it in the dining room while I was getting ready this morning. Maybe I set it down in the lab. I stomp back to the lab, I think.

There’s a quality of light through stained glass in the morning. Something about dawn, and dew, that adds a kind of clarity to it. A shining edge to the points of light you can only get at daybreak. During the day, the light no longer has that sharpness — colored glass is just colored glass. A few churches I’ve visited in my life, with walls more stained glass than bricks and stone, had this quality. Likely the only reason to have service early in the morning, to capture that strange edge of water and light that somehow reaches into your being. Purples and deep reds that feel like you’re bathing in them. In that light, a funeral makes sense. Comforting. A wedding feels witnessed by the light.

“You left it here” she points to a small table in the green house. Winston Churchill’s words goad me to keep going. I don’t remember having a greenhouse, but it reminds me of the ones my grandparents built alongside their home in Texas. Every room opened to a space filled with bromiliads and orchids, painstakingly cared for by my grandmother.

“Thank you…” spying my mug on the flimsy wire and metalwork table. This isn’t a greenhouse of wood and plastic sheeting, but brass and stained glass. It’s not a large room, but is filled with a number of tropical plants, many bearing edible fruits. I’d almost say overgrown, or a little crowded, but it seems intentional. Cozy. I don’t think one more plant could find a place without crowding something else. A date palm grows up from a very large pot to lean over a bit where it meets the ceiling. An orchid in a planter on the wall, I think it might be vanilla, drapes a handful of beans onto one side of the simple wire and stamped sheet metal table pushed against the wall. “.. ma’am?” The steam rises through a band of blue, wafts through a deep blood scarlet. “I don’t remember this room in the house.” She shifts in the dining room chair she must have brought in here, leans forward with a graceful claw trying to decide which piece of fruit to take from a bowl. She opens her other hand and gestures to a bar stool from the kitchen for me.

“And you probably won’t remember it in the daylight either.” I can’t quite place her accent, but it’s familiar, and comforting. She chooses a small wedge of grapefruit. Lizards like citrus don’t they?


“Sorry, you’re right. I’d forgotten.” Dragons like citrus. Her iridescent scales play beautifully in the morning light, I imagine due to the same effect as the glass. I see she has an empty teacup and a teapot, and at least figure I could pour her some. “I was looking for my coffee”

“…And then you remembered the light in the morning.” Sinuous? Hard to describe. Angelic in a way, I suppose. She tastes the fruit. “Thank you for pouring my cup.” A well groomed camellia bush by the glass must be where the tea came from. It’s green like matcha, and glows in the morning light. The vanilla must have come from the orchid.

“Yeah.” Just quiet, and the light subtly shifting as the sun rises. I sit down.

“What have you been making?” She selects what I guess are balls of cantaloupe with a long silver fork. Everything seems to be a little piece of somewhere else.

“Still working on the battery chemistries. And this?” I gesture to the space, “I suppose I’m making this. And some games. We just finished one, it did fairly well. I’d like to do more.”

“Games are good.” She chews slowly, and pats her mouth with an embroidered napkin. “Games bring people together around a table.” She holds her hand over the fruit and lifts a small plate for me. “No thank you, I usually don’t eat first thing.” She sets it back on the table.

“The battery work feels lonely. No one cares.” My coffee looks dull, nearly black compared to the glow of the space. It feels warm on my leg, “I don’t think people see the point of a not-very-good battery to run L.E.D.s”

She chuckles, and sips her tea. “They can’t see until there’s a light. Then it’ll seem obvious. People don’t work well with vague notions, they need to hold the problem and solution in their head at the same time. That’s hard for them to do.”

My coffee tastes dull here, the steam just seems pale.

“Travelling across the planet seems simple now, doesn’t it. Buy tickets, get on a plane and fly. You could be on the other side of the world in a matter of hours. You can hold that in your head. You have to skip a lot of steps, a lot of history, engineering, accidents, regulation, coordination, effort, and thought to hold that trip in your head. Now, go into your garage and build me a jet liner. You’re trying to build a complex machine out of half a dozen pieces you can grasp at a time.”

She reaches out a delicate claw, and places it on my knee. “People are wonderful, horrible, messy things capable of incredible marvels.” Her touch is warm, which surprises me “They sometimes have a hard time seeing the possibilities that are too vague. But sometimes, they can grasp a few more pieces, or see the shape of things that could be.”

She looks to the rising sun, a few dew drops run down the outside of the glass. “That shape is like a prayer.”

But then the light is lost, I refill my coffee in the kitchen, and I wonder what I might build today.

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