An essay on Shadows

by brittanychavez

This afternoon I walked out onto the balcony. The sun was low and there were sharp shadows on everything, and it occurred to me that the shadowed areas didn’t exist. That shadows are the void. So that the only way any form can ever be understood is by the absence of matter which wraps around it a certain way, depending on the light.

I threw an orange slice into the clover field below the balcony. I used my whole body so the peel went up in the air, a large arc, before hitting the ground. It fell into a shadowed area, and so for this moment it does not exist. But when it was in the air it crossed the path of the sun. For a moment, it lit up, it was aflame. Then it fell, gracefully, into non-being.

For now the sun sits above the trees, but it is sinking. More things are being covered in shadows. They are hidden and so they do not enter our minds. For instance, I recall a moment looked backwards at a girl in the backseat of a car. Her eyes are being lit up by the sun, always the sun, and the green of them is so transparent I feel like I am looking into the clearest river water. The kind of water that leaves the stones at the bottom up for inspection—every crack and spot perfectly visible. The car moved forward, the moment passed. And not once did I spare a thought for the shadow that must have been wrapping around her cheek. It did not occur to me to spend anytime tracing the lines of the shadow.

Now I am sitting on the balcony still. I look down into the clover field and I see a pockmarked skin of light and dark. I can imagine my hands reaching into a patch of sun and pulling up the clovers. They would be dark and spongy and alive.

But I haven’t given any thought to the shadowed clovers. Light has removed me from them, and now they are an abstract idea, a line I know is there. I can only remember them the way I remember my bedroom during a day at school: as I last saw it.