May 29, 2013-: Edge of the Shadow

~by Virginia Rhys Anson, OFS

Shadow, oh curious shadow. From whence do you come and where are you bound? Slothily you move upon the land, dependent for your journey solely on the sun. One inch you are not, the next you are—a sharp delineation ‘tween the inch with and the inch without.

Tree silhouettes etch the snow, nature’s art in ebony on albino terrain. Blackened branches bend and arch in leafless array as shadow bases hinge to trunks, changing distortion as Brother Sun continues his trek across the sky. At noon, nary a hint of shadow, yet near dusk its stretch is elongated to misshapen length.

Spindly limbs, a tree does cast. More the shape of the banshee’s fingers or witch’s arm, so crooked and gnarled. Fringes so crisp atop snow’s icy plain, soften ever so slightly on spring’s grassy deck. Erratic they dance on campsite’s earthen floor, as fire delights in warming night’s chill. How festive the tango of fire’s bright flame. Its phantom undulates jovially, cool blackness mirroring amber’s warmth. The hypnotic sway calms the frazzled mind and massages the eyes to restful repose.

Eve’s shadows render the impending dark of night, restful slumber for some, stark trepidation for others. Prey hunted by sight seek shelter in shadow’s camouflage. But fauna hunted by smell and sound are ever alert. Their safety found not in shadow’s domain.

By day, winged shadows emitted upon the ground send rabbit and prairie dog scurrying for sub-ground burros. Eagle seeks its next meal to feed young eaglets. But not this day, for shadow betrayed the predator’s intent.

Shadow, what lives at your edge, where sun and shade join, where shadow meets light, and daytime meets dark? That sharp edge where full spectrum of light marries its lack? Be ye harbor for wee fairy-folk fine? Be ye a fanciful, magical realm, where fairies play tag with sun’s joyful rays? Where pixies and brownies hide, seeking at play or flitting tandem with dragonfly to lily’s soft pedals?

A Holiday of Shadows, the fairy hamlet calls, as sprites and pixies bounce betwixt and among eventide’s shadows with shapes so varied, each one conjoined with its own unique twin. Such shapes, such shadows are marvels to these fairest of beings, and our human shadow is the most curious of all. Much like us in form, the fairy-folk are, yet you will nary see, on even the brightest of days, a shadow cast by these fair fairy creatures. So fairies and pixies and brownies alike dodge from light to dark, at play within shadows, tippy toeing their edges.

Yet no tiptoeing could they do on the most extreme shadows of all. How awesome to them must be, whether solar or lunar, an eclipse’s silhouette. The great feat of nature ‘tis the one that blocks the golden orb and eclipses moon between to throw its shadow upon the earth. Shrouding our lands in a cape of darkness, eclipse flings Earth into a deep sleep while midday burns bright—moon’s intrusion on Sun’s and Earth’s communique. The golden ringed aura half circling moon’s edge. Would that fairies could fly as far as moon’s height, they would dance on its surface and celebrate nature’s wondrous spectacle. And who is to say that they cannot?

What becomes of mammals and reptiles when eclipse truncates day? Does it confound them, this untimely nightfall? Or have they adapted a compensation for this plunge into dusk? Do meerkats head for their burrows and eaglets seek shelter under mother’s wing, only to be reawakened after a fraction of a night? And nocturnal animals, scavenging and hunting after the briefest of sleeps, to be greeted by day on eclipse’s waning edge after the mere shortest of hunts. A curious spectacle is the eclipse.

Yet lunar eclipses are much less dramatic and produce no shadow upon the land. They are no more confusing to animal kind than the cloud-filled, nocturnal sky—or so it would seem. Likely they go unnoticed more oft than sun’s grand display.

Night cameos, the moon’s gift to creation, claim an air of silent relaxing. The full spectrum of color departs the shadows of night, wrapped not within night’s gentle cloak.

So what are ye, Shadow? Such an anomaly, a curiosity to me. You are not object with dimensions to touch. You do not breathe or eat or feel. You do not live as God’s creatures do. You are, and then you are not. Yet exist, you do, as surely as I, even though if only for a fractional part of the day. Shadow, oh curious shadow. From whence do you come and where are you bound?


Virginia Anson grew up in the shadows of Sandia Crest in New Mexico. Family camping trips may have sparked her passion for nature. She holds an A.S. in Electronics Technology, a B.A. in Writing, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and a certificate in Wildlife/Forestry Conservation. Her book, Mother Earth’s Caretakers, targets middle school youngsters and is published as an e-book for Kindle. Virginia is a Vietnam Era veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and her volunteer endeavors see her as a lector, Eucharistic minister, and sacristan in her parish and as a habitat steward for the National Wildlife Federation. She especially cherishes her life in the Secular Franciscan Order, following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.

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