You see it all the time – but do you take notice?
On my walk this morning, I made a concerted effort to notice the way light played with shadows. When the sun’s rays are slanted in the early mornings or late afternoons is best for the shadow play effect.
Many garden designers use this element to enhance the aesthetics of a garden. The overlay of plant shadows on a wall, the way light streams through trees and dances on the leaf litter to the music of a breeze. Or how built elements can provide structural shadows that move with the the position of the sun.
Light and shade are crucial for successful plant selection of course, but also for creating an illusion of light in dark areas. I think of the way white flowers illuminate a dark space in the garden.
I remember being fascinated by the pergola of my childhood home. In the hot summers it was a sanctuary of shade, covered by an ornamental grape. Hot chinks of light sometimes squeezed through small gaps in the vines to make molten spots on the terrace floor. It was when the sun was lower in the sky and the vine was aflame with autumnal foliage I liked best, for as the leaves fell to the ground, bright shafts played upon the sparser canopy creating a carpet of shifting shadow leaves on the ground.
Of course, to have shadows one must have light and even then it is rarely a black and white affair. There are always shades between. The sun moves and so too, the shadows, creating a kaleidoscopic, movable feast for the senses.
Much like life when I think about it. Contrast requires at least two elements – usually opposites like light and dark. It’s this symbiosis I find so curious. There can be no shadows without light.
I need to remind myself of this, when haunted by the shades of night I am like the prisoners in Plato’s cave, mistaking the shadows for reality.
Find beauty not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and dark which that thing provides.