Posts Tagged ‘shade’

On Shadows

Photo of Magritte art: Thomas Hawk.
RenĂ© Magritte’s “La Trahison des Images” (“The Treachery of Images”) (1928-9) or “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”). The work is now owned by and exhibited at LACMA.

The first time I saw the Magritte work called in English “This is not a pipe,” I thought, “What do you mean? Yes, it is.” It took me a long time to consider that it’s only a picture of a pipe, not the pipe itself. My pipe-smoking father wouldn’t have been able to put tobacco in it and smoke it.

I mention this because it relates to one of the reasons I’m fascinated by shadows.

Peter Pan’s shadow goes off on its own for a while, but it wouldn’t exist without Peter Pan. The shades in the Greeks’ Underworld are both the real people and not the real people. In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” when Puck says to the audience, “If we shadows have offended,” he’s describing actors as shadows of characters, and characters as shadows of people. He recommends thinking about the play as a dream — another kind of meaningful shadow.

This is not a bicycle.

A shadow is the thing and not the thing, a distorted version of the thing that may lead to interesting or useful thoughts. Perhaps Orpheus will come and ride that bicycle into Hades and try bringing Eurydice home on the back. In the myth, though, he turned around despite dire warnings not to because he couldn’t hear her footsteps. I fear he will make the same mistake with the bicycle as he won’t be able to feel her sitting behind him.

Shadows are a way of thinking about things unseen that can stimulate the imagination and provide extra insight into the everyday world we experience. Since first reading The Princess and the Goblin, I’ve sensed that fiction and fantasy may provide the best ways to understand the “real.” It’s why I enjoy, for example, Francesca Forrest’s other world in Lagoon Fire, here, and blogger Laurie Graves’s fantasy series about the Great Library and her podcast, here.

There are so many things in our lives that are hard to fathom, and sometimes the imagination helps to get a grip on them. Some years ago, I read about a woman in Guatemala who was trying to explain why her neighborhood volcano erupted and killed so many people. She said it was because of her husband’s misdeeds. It was just her way to get her head around something too enormous to comprehend.

This is not a planter Suzanne made as a child. No plants here.

This is a planter Suzanne made as a child. Or is it?

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My hostess knows just the kind of pictures I like. Lots of sunlight and shade. While my husband and I were window shopping in Stockholm today, she went for her seven-mile run and took these photos along the way.













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