A Single Shadow

558793​In my youth, I lived in a house with a tall pine tree in the front yard. Its base was about three feet in diameter. An expanse of coarse bark stretched from gnarled roots up more than forty feet, without a hint of foliage. There, a branch reached timidly out into the suburban sky. Only a handful of other limbs, sparsely needled, followed its lead for another fifty feet.

It was not a particularly attractive tree, but it did solidly convey its place in a history longer than that of the suburban homes around it.

Occasionally, on warm evenings…

the neighborhood children would gather in this yard for a lively game of nighttime hide-and-go-seek. Upon the commencement of counting by the designated seeker at the base of the pine tree, children would scatter in all directions to hide behind various obstructions.

Not me. I would simply walk ten or so paces away and lie down. You see, this tree stood in such a way that it caused the bright light from a lamppost across the street to draw a single wide, dark shadow diagonally across the front lawn.

Nestled on the cool, moist grass, encased within that shadow, I would casually watch the seeker find each hider, one-by-one, almost tripping over me at times. The contrasting brightness of the surrounding light enveloped me with invisibility. Since I would always wait until nobody was looking in my direction before getting up, this secret hiding place was never discovered. The other players would be startled by my sudden reappearance, often accusing me of hiding in the house or otherwise cheating.

I liked that feeling, or, perhaps more accurately, I liked the idea of that feeling… observing from within the middle of everything, while being entirely unseen. I had entered into a perplexing, exciting, and slightly frightening realm. I was right there, in a central, exposed place. And yet, nobody noticed me.

Were it not for the particular angle and brightness of the light at that time of evening, this hiding place would, of course, have been obvious to everyone. Through some quirk of personal perspective, this slice of reality was, at those moments, visible only to me.

I remember wondering what enabled me to see so clearly into this particular darkness, and what kept others from being aware of it. Was this some fundamental flaw in my ability to connect to others? Did my colorblindness make me see everything in a different light? Or does everyone have vivid shadow places… perfectly obvious to them, but wholly invisible to others?

Yes. Yes. And, yes.

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