The other evening I was walking. Walking purposefully.
Sometimes I do that, walk stridently and with intent. Other times it is more of a stroll.
Walking purposefully, I find, often means looking down. Down at your feet and the ground a few paces ahead. Possibly to avoid tripping or stepping in something untoward? Or maybe it is just the stance of purposefulness?
Anyway, I was looking down as I strode purposefully back to my car. It was late in the evening and I was walking back to my car, keen to drive home. My car was about ten minutes away from the train station. I had parked there because the station car park had been full earlier in the day … in case you’re wondering (you’re probably not)?
As I walked, I was transported back to my childhood.
On the ground, emerging from beneath my striding feet appeared a dark grey, shoulder width shape, with a slight bump in the middle. Within moments the bump raced ahead of my feet, stretching out, growing at pace, and the shape it pulled from behind grew with it. As it grew it faded. Still visible, but more muted. The dark grey on the pavement of the stocky protrusion by my feet had become a barely visible pale silhouette of all of me, laid out on the pavement ahead of me. And then, within only seconds, it was gone.
Moments later the process began again. The dark puddle emerged from my feet. Grew like an accelerated version of me growing up into the adult I had become. Then it faded away again.
As a child I remembered playing a game with this shadow. Trying to chase it as it protruded. Never succeeding of course, but my lack of success never deterred me from trying to stamp on it as it emerged from under my feet, or from chasing it vainly down the road until it faded away again.
I was of course walking under streetlights.
Once again the childhood game was with me. Stomp stomp, stomp. Now of course I am wise in years and understand the science, but the fun remained.
It seemed in the moment that the shadow might be representing my growth as a human being. A small bump emerging, growing from stocky little child into a tall adult, then fading again as my years advanced. In spite of my feeble but concerted efforts, I couldn’t stop the growth of this shadow me as I strode through life. I couldn’t catch it up. I couldn’t prevent it from fading away. Nor could I stop it repeating, again and again, until the light goes out.
A high wall on my righthand side offered me another perspective. My shadow self marched past me. As it encroached from behind it was pale and barely perceptible. As it strode alongside me it was stronger, accompanying me for a moment on my journey. Then it raced ahead into my future and once again faded, just as another reappeared from my past. For a split second I could just make out my past and my future, together in the moment.
The streetlights on the opposite side of the road were giving me another viewpoint.
Unlike my childhood experiences, where this was simply a game, my adult shadow chasing offered me a metaphor for life, my life. Arriving in the world, small and weak. Growing stronger in myself and who I am, growing taller with personal learning, then gradually fading away in my future, as we all must eventually.
For now though – because all there is is now – I enjoyed my childhood memory and my shadow stomping.
image: A shadow on the wall by nneiole