An Illuminating Presence

Like an anthropologist, I piece together the living remnants of a stranger gone to work. We are not welcomed into their home, but enter with permission and authority. Once there, it is our job to access their most personal, most private, most intimate spaces – their bathrooms, their bedrooms, their closets, their fridges… Where we proceed to change light bulbs, aerators, showerheads, and check for any unnecessary energy and water seepages.

I tiptoe and creep through, careful to leave no trace behind but an education pamphlet and flyer as telltale signs of our illuminating presence. And when these strangers return, they will return to a newly illuminated home – a home filled with warm fluorescent light cast by swirly light bulbs.

I scan his CD and DVD collection, noticing approvingly an abundance of Rambo and Chuck Norris films, the pet fish already illuminated by fluorescent lighting, and his closet where I discover to my great delight a top shelf stacked high with cowboy hats. The bedroom, like the rest of the apartment, is spare and clean. There is a single pair of jeans laid out on an ironing-board unforgotten – he will get to them later.

I change out the small, dimly-lit light bulbs in the matching set of bedside lamps, taking note that they match, and the tasteful rustic styled pattern and stitching on the shade and body. The swirly fluorescents are brighter and too flashy for the deliberately cultivated subtlety of the bedroom. I leave them in for the sake of my conservationist conscience, but also leave the apartment with the distinct feeling that sometimes some things are more important than conservation…

-Jeri Ho, AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation Corpsmember

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