Penumbra

We found a shadow hiding in the corner of our back yard.  It had come there weak and injured.  My daughter and I first noticed it because it didn’t belong to any of the other objects there in the yard, and we could see that it was out of place.  The shape of it flinched as we approached, and we could tell that it was scared.  I tried to coax it out.  I spoke gently and beckoned it with my palm turned up and my fingers trying to draw it forward.  But it just rattled about in the tall weeds and it refused to come out.

Late in the evening, we brought it out some food.  Being a shadow, we had to bring it the shadows of food, and this was no easy thing to arrange.  I laid the meal out on the dining room table in the dark.  Then I placed a flashbulb at one end of the table.  I popped the flash, and the tableaux of the bottle of wine and the block of the cheese and the plate of fish were all briefly illuminated, the memory of the sight lingering far longer than the sight itself.  The shadows of the wine, the fish, and the cheese had all been cast onto a tray that had been placed behind them, and I lifted the tray up in the dark and carried it carefully from the room.

We had to wait till evening to feed the shadow, because the other shadows were longer and deeper then, and it could blend in with them and creep out a little from its hiding place.  It was a starlit night, and I crossed the yard shading the tray with my hand, trying not to let any of the starlight disturb the shadows of the food on the tray.  My daughter tagged along beside me.  She wanted to see the shadow come out to feed.  I think she wanted to pet it or tickle it behind the ears.  But I told her that she had to stay back.  The shadow was wild and scared.  We didn’t know where it had come from or what it would do.

As we approached the corner of the yard, I realized that I had no idea if the shadow was still there.  The shadow made no noises of it own, and there would be no sounds if it bumped against the other shadows and the other things in the dark.  I had a flashlight with me, but that would do nothing but chase the shadow away, and I didn’t want to hurt it or scare it.  So, I just placed the tray on the ground and backed away.  I whispered to my daughter and told her that we would come back in the morning and see if the shadows were gone. 

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4 thoughts on “Penumbra

  1. I had a momentary insight into a symbolic meaning for your shadow. When I recall that insight to write this, it’s no longer vivid, but has hardened into an interpretation, but that’s the best I can do. I saw the shadow as standing for illusion: any kind of thought or impression that isn’t actually a thing, not factual.

    But then because you interacted with it, a “virtual life” was breathed into it, as if it were a shadowy incarnation of Frankenstein’s “creature”. And so it imposed obligations: to feed it, to coax it into tameness like a wild creature that could be tamed into a pet.

    The idea of feeding a shadow with the shadow of food is a comic absurdity, perhaps designed by the unconscious to show how absurd it is to believe in “illusion”.

    The kind of illusion I have in mind is an idea or allegiance which one then feels obliged to defend, when it’s challenged by others, or one’s own rational self.

    Which shows how burdensome it is to have such ideas; how liberating it is to let them fall.

    I’m wondering how you saw it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I didn’t know quite what to make of this one. Your interpretation seems plausible, like “nourishing an illusion” protrayed literally. I could see that. There’s definitely a theme of some sort here about trying to connect with the intangible.

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  2. Feeding a scared, injured shadow the shadows of food. I think that might be the most imaginative thing I’ve ever read. It would make for a great horror story (if the shadow grew up and turned on you, I suppose).

    Liked by 1 person

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