Sunday, October 28, 2012

Half in Shadow

-I love everything that dazzles me and then accentuates the darkness within me-                                   

Rene Char
Squinting in the sun, I scan the terrain.  The nature of idleness; I am drawn like a moth into the calm. Venturing into the yellowing foliage of the vineyard, lured by autumn’s call, I search for evidence of a gathering – yet today it is not the laughing curve of blue sky sprinkled with  freewheeling flickers of songbirds or the taunting array of leaf colors that catches my attention. Instead I am drawn to the dark, creeping fingers of shadow blemishing the ground.

The month of October in the northern hemisphere highlights the progressive tilt of the earth's axis, which at the equinox starts out being inclined neither away from nor towards the sun, then continues its gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days until reaching the longest night of the winter solstice. What does the eye notice during the day at this time of departing light? On the white birch black leaves glitter - while a great snaking of dark weaves its way through the prized light of day, lengthening as the sun slides lower in the sky and gets caught behind a row of tall evergreens and the peaked roof of a red-planked barn. Entire landforms rearrange themselves to the eye, highlighted by the shifting shapes of their shadow forms.

 I cross the paved street, bathed in the bright aura of afternoon sunshine that heats the surrounding air. Climbing the short, steep ledge of dry grass and stone that separates cemetary from road, I stand at the edge of a landscape warm against my skin. Today the silence of this private resting place for the departed is serenaded by the soft murmur of leafy oak. Mirrored in the free-form, iridescent movements of a lone butterfly, an invisible transit textured with light, fleet breezes carries dry leaf and pollen grain on the wing.

Traveling from one gravestone to the next in tight circles, I pay close attention to the shadows cast by each monument. Discarded cloaks of human spirit stitched to the base, the shadows create a shape-shifting mosaic of dark that blankets the sun-bleached ground. This contrast of light and form, fine and intricate as thought, is a reminder of the eventual end to the long journey which we are all called upon to make. We travel as if blindfolded, spun around and pointed toward a destination that’s nothing more than an impulse weaving through time; a wild rose unfolding petal after petal ever wider until encompassing the entire universe in the beautiful expression of a single human life.

Because it is only for a brief time that we come to realize our belonging to the light of day, many of us yearn for contact with departed loved ones long after they have gone. We miss them, and ache for the intimate moments we shared, sometimes living our days wrapped in the barren, windswept crossing of the shadow side. Yet even hearing one's own voice echo in the stark, lonely landscape of a mountain pass seems to suggest that we are not alone. There is an ancient tranquility in nature. It never falls out of rhythm. When we go out alone and enter its solitude, we return home.

The sharp complaint of a blue jay brings me back to the day, sunny and filled with a flowing unknown. Circling back to the vineyard, I step through a sprinkling of crisp, dry leaves strewn across the dusty road. The soft twitter of songbirds swoops down along the vineyard's edge. So many times as I lay in bed at day's end and reflect on what I have seen that day when I looked out from myself, my gaze has completely missed the shadow side of bud and flower and shoot. I  have overlooked the darkness at the root; gentle weave of blackened wings following a flock of grey geese flying northward that gradually leaves my sight.