Good Day, Dear Wonder Child Blog
Today’s entry is a story inspired by
Dr. Jean Raffa and her wonderful blog, Matrignosis. Her last few posts have been about shadow
work, and this story, “The Shadow, The Tree, and the Heart of Darkness,” came
tumbling out in about 20 minutes after reading her latest and beautiful entry,
The Light Shadow. Jeanie is gracious enough
to allow me to submit my stories to her blog as comments. Imagine that, someone who welcomes four-page
comments (I welcome them too, by the way)!
Anywho, this story is about a shadow, a girl playing the recorder, a tree, the Heart of Darkness, and yes, hope.
The Shadow, the
Tree, and the Heart of Darkness
For Jeanie, the wisest
snowy owl I know.
the Shadow, born in the woods, “this is it.
This is where I grow.” She looked
behind her at the sun just beginning to set and she smiled a delicious smile. “Excellent,” she grinned, and as she spoke
she elongated, spidering out, touching everything around her, and everything
around her crumpled just a little bit as her fingers passed over them. Not that it hurt. Her touch was simply cold.
whose base she was connected to swayed a little as she moved out over the
forest floor. She swayed with him. He leaned just far enough for the squirrel in
a neighboring tree to be able to land in his boughs. The shadow leaned too. When the tree caught the song of the wind in
his highest branches he had to sing. As
he sang he swayed even more than before, and as he did the squirrels and the
birds in his arms closed their eyes, enjoying the ride.
me, tree?” the shadow interrupted.
For a long,
annoying moment, the tree just kept singing and swaying, ignoring her, or
simply not hearing her, she didn’t know which.
“Yo! Tree!” she shouted.
his own time, the tree swayed to a stop and his voice trailed off over the
hillside like a whispered secret.
mind not moving so much? I’m trying to
spread out here and it’s hard to grab things when you’re dancing.”
“I see,” he
said, “and why are you trying to grab things?”
I do, I’m a shadow. Shadow’s grab
things, take them under their wings, tuck them in the folds of their coats,
stuff them into their pockets, smother them with affection.”
“I see,” the
tree said again, “and why do you do these things?”
what I do. Now would you stand still for
a few minutes, please? You see that girl
over there, the one playing the recorder on that rock? I want to reach her next before the sun gets much
happen to her when you reach her?” asked the tree.
playing. Doubts will creep in. She’ll think I mean more than I do. She’ll bring to mind her parent’s displeasure
of her music.”
playing for years. And a little piece of
my soul will graft onto her and when she gets up to walk home I will go with
her. And the next time she thinks about playing the recorder, she’ll stop and
think about displeasing her parents and she won’t play. She’ll stay nice and cozy in me.”
said the tree, “I think I am going to sing again.”
Damn!” yelled the shadow, but it was too late. The tree was singing, swaying; only this time
his swaying was more of a swirl. This
time his singing was more of a chant.
This time he threw his voice across the path to where the girl sat
playing recorder. He joined her melody,
joined her breath, joined her fingering, and she looked up, felt his presence,
rose and began to dance. She danced
towards him. She bowed with all the
grace of the dawn and he bowed in return.
you,” said the shadow, “you have brought her closer.” And as the shadow began climbing the girl’s
leg, the tree bent down and lifted the girl onto his shoulders.
yelled the shadow. And before she knew
what was happening, the tree bent down and hoisted her up as well.
“Wait a minute! What are you doing?” the shadow screamed.
But the tree
he just kept singing. The tree he just
kept dancing. And the girl sensed the
shadow’s presence and saw her there on the branch next to her. And in a moment that froze time; in a moment
that stopped the turning of the earth; in a moment where the forest and all of
the trees, and all living things—the hills and the water—the birds and the
planets—all of them paused, stopped, for the girl had reached out and touched
the shadow’s hand. The shadow trembled
like water and instantly burst into tears.
The girl leaned over and embraced her, and the tree threw leaves and
sobs to the wind. He swayed and he
danced, and the sky broke open in waves of silken purples and crimsons; the sun
smiled, winked his eye, and bowed in deference to the moon. The moon appeared, saw the embrace and
instantly sent down a silver shawl to cover them both, and there they sat in
each other’s arms as the world began to turn and dance again.
After a long
while, the girl let go and wiped the shadow’s tears, looking at her dark,
playing for you,” she said.
the shadow, “What did you say?”
“I knew you
were there. I saw you coming. I have spent time in many a shadow. I know what’s inside you—the voices of doubt,
self-criticism, shame. I know the fear
you carry. I also know that your desire
to surround me isn’t purely selfish.
There is comfort in your wings, there is silence in the hallways of your
heart, there are theatres in your mind where I can act out the scenes of my
life, and you know very well all that would give me a safe place to hide from
“I did not
mean to harm you,” said the shadow.
said the girl.
is I wanted to collect you into my folds with the hope you would one day find
the courage to face your family and just be yourself. You couldn’t do that without me.”
said the girl.
“How do you
know these things?” asked the shadow.
tells me,” she said, “he sings to me, so do the birds and the streams, and the
roots and rocks. My dreams tell me, my
music tells me, the caterpillar becoming a butterfly tells me. They tell me that everything shadow-dappled
is beautiful. That shadows are part of
the way of light. In fact, without
shadows there would be no light. On my
long walks in nature I have come to terms with my parent’s disapproval. I have come to terms with my sadness and
pain. I have come to terms with the fact that I will have to strike out on my
own in order to live my dreams.”
interjected the tree.
blushed the girl, “You’re right, not alone.
I carry the tree’s love in my heart, his beauty and steadfastness, his
desire to shelter and…”
laughed the tree.
minute,” said the shadow sitting up, “you’re a part of all of the work I do, of
course! Why didn’t I see it before?”
looking,” laughed the tree, “but the fact is without objects, real or imagined,
to block the light, you wouldn’t exist.
I know your coldness can be refreshing.
Your shade can help the weary traveler.
It’s all in how you desire to be used.”
moment the sun went down completely and the woods went entirely black, black as
said the girl, leaping down from the tree, “I’m late. Oh goodness, how am I going to get home? It’s pitch black!”
shadow leapt down, opened her wings, and said, “Let me take you through the
darkness. I know the heart of the
darkness, we are part and parcel of one another. You may have spent time in a shadow before,
but what I carry deep within me, only those who have eyes that can pierce the
darkness know what I carry deep inside. I
promise to bring you home safely. You
have helped me see my own light, let me share with you the heart of darkness.” The shadow opened her arms and invited the girl
in. The girl turned, embraced the tree
and then walked slowly into the shadow’s arms.
Darkness engulfed her like black water.
She held her breath until she opened her eyes and when she did, in the
heart of the heart of the shadow, was a cathedral lit by a thousand candles,
the moon was there delivering homilies on the alchemy of grieving, the sun was there
smiling, listening from the first row, tears steaming from his face. She felt herself being lifted, the entire
cathedral of the night lifted with her and spun gently, like a giant ship in an
ocean of ink, and turned in the direction of her house. She laughed and sat down next to the sun and
listened far into the night about images, and wonder, about hope and the power
of praise, about how laughter and tears walk hand in hand, about how light and
shadow live and breathe and dance as one.
tree? The tree leaned into the darkness,
and held a place for the sleeping birds and squirrels. He also held a place, high up in his highest
branches, for that winged, piece of the moon—the snowy white owl, who can see
into the shadows and find sustenance where no one else would ever think to
Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog