Playing Shadow Tag

“Man, did he stomp you!  You are so dead!”

My brother shouted out the words triumphantly.  He was right.  David, the boy from two houses up, had just killed me.  He had smashed me with no mercy whatsoever.  It was over.

Well.  Now that it was over, this dead boy could head for home and some supper.  The sun was leaning down low in the western sky and the shadows grew longer and longer.

What’s that?  You want to know about the stomping and smashing?  Well, I just told you.  The shadows were growing longer.

It was a game we played sometimes.  I bet you did too.  We had been walking down the road and noticed the elongated shadows our bodies cast as we ambled along, the westering sun behind us.  Immediately we were trying to step on each other’s shadow, playing a game of shadow tag.  The one that lasted the longest without an opponent’s foot coming down on his shadow was the winner.

For a long time on this particular evening, I had prevailed.  I’m sure the neighbors thought we were crazy.  We jumped and jived, yelling while spinning this way and that–all the while, stomping at the ground like wild men stepping on cockroaches.  Anyone looking on would have seen nothing on which to stomp, but there we were, slamming our feet down here and there, dodging across the pavement to avoid the certain death that awaited us.

My favorite trick, and the one that kept me alive as long as I had lasted in the game, was to wait until someone’s foot was about to smack down on the pavement where my shadow was and quickly to duck down, almost on the street.  The fifteen foot shadow that had loomed out ahead of me seconds before shrank to a tiny thing no longer than I was tall.  The ruse worked for awhile, but finally David, who was the only opponent left alive, figured out what was happening and stomped the road right in front of me.  Even the tiny shadow I cast while crouched down was long enough that there was no doubt of the kill.  I clutched my throat, as did the shadow stretched out on the pavement, made a gurgling noise, and fell to the road.  The shadow followed suit, lying perfectly still as long as I did.  It was such a copycat!

I have always been interested in shadows.  Well, I was when I was a boy.  As a man, I had forgotten about them, the obligations of adulthood robbing me of the freedom to sit and watch my shadow grow and shorten in the sunlight, to make shadow puppets on walls, to play a game of shadow tag with my peers.  It may be that I am moving into my second childhood.  It may just be that I am taking more time now to think about days gone by.  In any case, I have been noticing my old companion again recently, that omnipresent pal from my youth–my shadow.

I saw him once again last night as I took a late evening run.  Oh, I know he is most visible in the sun, but in the winter months, I don’t get out in the daylight as much as I’d like, so the moonlight has to do.  We’ve had a clear night or two, and the waxing moon is casting a vivid shadow as it eases toward its full stage later this week.  I watched my shadow run that five mile course with me last night, but the path on which I run has many lamps to illuminate the way, so the extra shadows can be a bit confusing.

I realized something as I ran.  There was a shadow always visible, since the moon barely shifted in the three quarters of an hour that I was out in the night.  But, each time I ran under one of those lamps, the shadow changed.  The moon shadow was at a different angle than the one cast by the lamp and the closer I got to the lamp, the more distinct the artificial shadow grew and the less defined the moon’s became.  The lamp’s shadow was first stretched out behind me as I approached the lamp, shortening to nothing as I was exactly under it, and then lengthening out in front of me as I sped past the artificial light source.  As I looked steadily down, the lamp’s shadow began to waver and the moon-cast shadow became distinct once more in exactly the same place it had been before I ran under the lamp.  Soon the lamp’s shadow was no more, but the moon’s remained.  This was repeated again and again all along the path.

You know, it seems to me that the light source in which we choose to live and walk is pretty important.  Artificial light is bright enough–for a moment, but if we move, we will outpace it easily.  The only way to keep that shadow from disappearing is to stay under it, never moving.  Even the moon’s light is transient; if we continue in it long enough, the shadow lengthens and disappears.  The same happens eventually with the sun.

I wonder if I need to continue in this vein much longer.  Is it obvious to you by now that this conversation can only end in contemplation of the one true Light?  All others pale before Him. But, like the other light sources, if we stay directly under this Light, there is no shadow, no darkness.

I like that.  Nobody gets to stomp on us in a game of spiritual shadow tag.

No more lengthening shadows as the light goes.

Every good gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights.

I want to live in that Light.

“I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.”
(from A Child’s Garden of Verses ~ Robert Louis Stevenson ~ Scottish Poet ~ 1850-1894)

“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”
(I John 1:5 ~ NKJV)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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