September 21st 2015
There were other lampposts just like it standing nearby, but for some reason this one stuck out to me as I walked through the courtyard behind Erwin Hall. Up till the moment when that green lamppost made of glass and metal caught my eye, standing tall at the crossroads of the stone pathway, my gaze had been transfixed by the almost Victorian-style architecture of the buildings around campus. The air that day was cool yet soothing against my skin and the sun felt warm in contrast to the slightly chilly breeze; a perfect day for a walk in September.
I’m not sure what it was that caused me to stop and stare at that one lamppost. Perhaps it was its location and the striking image it made standing right next to a tall tree. Whether it was strategically placed there by God or by man, I do not know. I gazed up at it, its light now dormant in the morning sun as it stood where the path split in front of Sturges Hall. Like the rest of the lampposts it was out of its time, matching the old-fashioned buildings it stood with but not the age it stood in; it looked more like was designed to stand guard over city streets in the 19th century.
For the first time I noticed the patterns of the lamppost, every intricate detail suddenly popping out at me. I marveled at its design and I thought about how long must have taken to put so much thought and devotion into it and how these lampposts were first created.
Strangely, when I was little I used to think that lampposts were grown, like trees. That’s what C.S. Lewis said happened during the genesis of his Narnia. Having those books read to me every night as a child always left an imprint on my easily-influenced imagination. My ridiculous belief about the birth of lampposts was further fueled by the streetlamps we used to pass on our way to and from my grandmother’s house.
I remember sitting in the car and watching the streetlamps move in and out of sight as we passed them along the freeway. They were gigantic and grey in color with two, long, curved rods protruding out in opposite directions at the top and light bulbs at each end of those rods, resembling eyeballs on stalks that watched us as we drove by. To me, the slight droop of the rods reminded me of the branches of a willow tree. As I looked up at them it with a child’s mind and I wondered how long it took for each one of them to grow and which part of them was used as the “seed” to grow it. And I even sometimes wondered when the very first lamppost was grown and where it happened.
Of course, such a notion of the origins of the lamppost is unrealistic, although very imaginative. This lamppost and the others around it are descendants of their ancestors, the ancient lanterns. They were not grown but they were born of fire, lit by torches in Greek and Roman civilizations. They protected travelers by lighting their paths during their nightly journeys and they warded off robbers by either warning them that a home was occupied or creating the illusion that it was. Slaves, called lanternarius, were the ones who gave the lamps their light and the ‘link boys’ of the Middle Ages were their successors, wielding the lamps to escort people through the labyrinth of streets in their small towns.
That’s how the majestic lamppost first came into being: evolving over the centuries to go from consuming fire in the ancient world of Rome where the first of their kind were fueled by oil, then to consuming gas during the mid-1720s when they were placed along the roadways to guide the carriages during the night, thus marking the birth of the streetlamp. Then, finally, in Russia during the mid-1870s, they began consuming electricity, like they do today. So, they were not organically grown like trees, as I had previously thought. However, they did take their time developing.
I smiled slightly to myself as I remembered how I used to be all those years ago, looking at streetlamps as objects grown by nature rather than manufactured by humans. Now I obviously have a clearer understanding of where lampposts came from than I did back then. Perhaps I’m not that different from the lamppost after all. Like it, I too have evolved over time; having grown from something so small and simple in nature that looked at the world through naïve eyes, to becoming something more complex with a deeper knowledge of the world that continues to grow and shine brighter.
My name is Catherine Henry and I am a transfer student from Finger Lakes Community College who switched from an ASL Major to an English Major after rediscovering my love for writing in my final semester there. Presently a resident of Bloomfield, NY, I hope to expand my skill in the art of writing and use it for whatever plan God has for me. I love books and classic rock and I am currently employed at my local library.