Early in spring before the trees fully dress themselves in skirts and shirts of leaves, I began to observe the influence of shadows. For some time I have been fascinated by the shapes and forms shadows cast in my life. As a child I played with my shape shifting form, wiggling my fingers to make tiny animals appear or dancing with my shadow across our stubbled lawn – well we really had a yard more than a lawn. On hot summer days, shadow and I played statues –striking one frozen pose after another. Afternoons on the beach I would feel ancient and wise, in tune with the earth, as I placed a straight stalk of sea grass in the sand to check on the time! I still do that today, walking on mountain trails, placing my hiking stick into the ground, wondering whether it is time to turn back – although today I have to make an hour’s adjustment for daylight savings time. When I am worn weary with play and the persistence of the sun’s heat, shadows offer me the refuge of shade.
Shadows create for me a marvel of art and architecture; the straight lines of my deck railing take on new angles as the sun moves from east to west. My backyard becomes a shadow garden as the limbs of the neighbor’s massive oaks and the hanging arches of dried hydrangeas create lacy patterns. As the breeze blows, shadows of leaves begin a spiraling dance around the maple’s steady trunk. All along the sidewalk tree shadows lock arms, shadowed wires create continuous arches and berries become buttons. Shadows cast more than the replica of an object; they create something new and amazing.
From light of dawn to evening, shadows enter stage left and right with seemingly whimsical changes in wardrobe. David Abram in Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology nudges my awareness that the shadow is something more than a two-dimensional silhouette lying flat at my feet. “The actual shadow does not reside primarily on the ground; it is a voluminous being of thickness and depth, a mostly unseen presence that dwells in the air between my body and the ground. (16). As Abram points out, the truth of this becomes more evident when I step into the shadow of the mountain. I feel the influence as the coolness brushes over my skin; I sense the change in the rhythm of my breath. I relish the comfort zone, sharing the favored space with lamb-ears, lily-of-the valley, violets, bee balm and begonias. And imagine! I share with the material world the power to disrupt the domination of the sun when insects and blades of grass fall under the spell of my own shadow. (Abram,19).