The sun is a star. Within its exterior lie reactions of nuclear fusion that provide the energy to the solar system. George Bailey’s promise of the moon could be lassoed only because of the sun’s reflection. The tides of a sea rise and fall because of its attraction to that very sun and that same moon. And it is the position of the sun to earth, its reflections off the moon, its billions of cousin stars, and the inventions made from photosynthetic inspiration, that birthed the world of shadows.
The media of shadows has given us the alligator hand puppet, a terrestrial carbon copy, Caravaggio’s signature trademark, and the 2nd chapter action series that brings Peter Pan back to the Darling children’s bedroom only to whisk the three away from Kensington Gardens.
Three night-lights shown for the three children, one fire burned by the one mother, and Peter blew in with the wind alongside the charming light of his lady fairy friend. Illumination was present, no doubt, but what made Peter’s shadow so vulnerable to the sudden drop of a window and the fangs of Nana? Maybe it was the part of him that wanted the life of a normal boy, like John or Michael; perhaps, along with his full set of baby teeth, his shadow had not grown strong enough to endure a close escape. Or maybe the point is not to wonder why it stayed behind, but to think that if the night-lights and fire had out-shown the moon and its cousin stars, his shadow would have been one step ahead of him, leaving him no reason to come back.
It is our physical position between rays and surface that determines the casting of our framed opacity. Our attachment. For the tree that stands tall and regal with the occasional dance in the wind, it is the tilt of an axis that casts its shadow from one horizon to the other. Earth’s attachment. An inextricable existent. Even in darkness our shadows are a part of us, hovering patiently, sleeping like the sun, waiting for the smallest streak of light to give it form. To make us remember that we’re not alone.
Memories can be like these shadows. Thoughts can lay dormant for years like those of my childhood. I didn’t grow up until I was twelve. It was then that I officially stopped believing in Santa Claus. Finally, I accepted that I was too old to have such infallible faith in the kingdoms of fairies and angels and miracles and Santa Clauses (I’ve since reverted back to my childhood genius, and daily pray for such a faith). I don’t have many memories from before I was twelve. Maybe it’s because I didn’t yet see the necessity of having to remember the beauty of such an age, a being. Those memories hide in the darkness, but again, they exist all the same, and I believe though my childhood memories may not be cognizant in mind, they are the very whispers in my heart that beckon me back to the glory of imagination and trust in a kingdom that is to come.
In the years post-Santa disillusion/re-illusion, most memories are more traceable—an adult’s picture of how a coherent map should appear. Of course, they become more prominent depending on one’s emotional position between rays and surface. Photos and songs and scents and tastes that look like tan children branded with bindis, sound like Bollywood dance, smell like the freshness of mountains, and taste like curry and chile will undoubtedly put me in the position to trace the vividness of my time spent in Nepal. Memories that are too sweet and too hilarious, so I want them to stay. I want to think here for a while.
" ‘I wasn't crying about mothers,’ he said rather indignantly. ‘I was crying because I can't get my shadow to stick on. Besides, I wasn’t crying.’
‘It has come off?’
Then Wendy saw the shadow on the floor, looking so draggled, and she was frightfully sorry for Peter. ‘How awful!’ she said, but she could not help smiling when she saw that he had been trying to stick it on with soap. How exactly like a boy!
Fortunately she knew at once what to do. ‘It must be sewn on,’ she said, just a little patronisingly.”
(from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up)
To live a life without a shadow, one’s reminder that light and dark exist, would be just as odd as living a life without a memory. Especially the good ones; especially the good ones. I want those tattooed all over my body so there is no need to remember anything else. But those tattoos would look like saggy inked wrinkles the older (and we do get older, by golly) my arms and legs become and would remind me of my age rather than those beautiful sacred memories.
And the kingdom has not come in its fullness. We’re still in the midst of a painful pregnancy that will soon enough bring re-birth, re-earth, re-life. Soon enough. But not this minute. This minute it’s just pain. Those good memories have been trumped by a 24-hour sun day of bad memories. I don’t want to think about them (being old lovers, old friends, old being not any more) anymore. I want the Eternal Sunshine remedy…I want my shadow to be unsewn. I would go without a shadow if it meant I could go without these thoughts.
But a spotless mind is no mind at all; Wendy knew this. She saw Peter’s shadow bruised and beaten, got her needle and thread, and warned, “I daresay it will hurt a little.” She would look at my shadow of the most prominent thoughts that stay with me even in my nightmares, give me a lecture on how it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all (I would reply, “bullshit, Wendy, you don't know what it means to grow up”), and she would get her needle and thread just to warn “I daresay this will hurt [most likely more than] a little.”