I’ll live with my shadow

I broke a mirror not long ago and was surprised to find myself feeling glad about it. As someone who is involuntarily superstitious, I’d never have done something like that on purpose, but I needed to be reminded to stay away from my reflection. In reflections, everything is backward, and all you can see is the surface.

Looking away from the mirror, the first thing I noticed was my shadow: the lightless void I create simply by being here and standing against the light. Unlike my reflection, my shadow doesn’t wait for me to gaze upon it, and disappear when I stop paying attention. My shadow doggedly follows me everywhere I go; in fact when the sun is at my back, my shadow even walks before me.

We live in a world of light and darkness. It’s tempting to see everything in those terms, and it’s tempting to call the darkness “bad” and the light “good.” My shadow is dark; isn’t it therefore my own darkness I see in my shadow? And I see a lot of darkness: I have poisons in my blood, anger in my thoughts, sadness in my soul. Like my shadow these things lengthen in the low-lying sun of midwinter.

But I’ve noticed something interesting about shadows. They only disappear on three occasions: when the sun is directly overhead; when the sky is completely overcast and grey… and when the night is so dark and stormy you can’t see anything at all.

In other words, if I want to lose my shadow, I need to either stand with the sun beating down on me relentlessly, or to live in a world stripped of contrast and colour, or plunge unseeing into unmitigated blackness.

I think I’ll live with my shadow. Who knows, maybe some unseen ant or earthworm can use the shade.

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