Shadow Play


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.

Junichiro Tanizaki

33 responses to “Shadow Play

    • I get so much from your feedback, Albert. Praise coming from you is appreciated indeed. Poetry is a magical medium that says so much in so few words and on so many levels. I must make an effort to write more poetry, try to perfect the skill. Or if not that, then get better at it. Is there ever such a beast as a poem we’ve composed that we’re happy with?
      Perhaps I am too content. It seems times of angst bring forth the best poetry for me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m keen to know what you thought of Penny’s Glass Houses. I still haven’t read it. You’ve piqued my interest with the idea of dark and light. I’d love to see how you handle it in your next book. So the end will come on the solar eclipse?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Robyn, Yes, I’ve developed a very interesting technique in the last week. I’ve finished writing half of the next book and have so many ideas in my head that I’ve started writing the first paragraph of all of the succeeding chapters. It’s a much better method for me than attempting to outline my ideas. I wrote the solar eclipse final chapter paragraph already.
        As for Glass Houses, I find that Penny uses the technique of dropping a small piece of info and leaves you hanging until a later chapter. I get very impatient and find by the middle of the book I invariably jump to the ending chapters. And the problems in the Surety always seem insurmountable for him and his team of misfits. There are some interesting research issues and it’s beautifully written but bringing the drug trade smack into the center of Three Pines made me bristle. I’m interested in your thoughts when you’ve read her latest.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I know that particular technique Clare. There is software (can’t remember the name) that advocates that and helps track the story arc. It also generates a pretty good synopsis. Ooooh! You have me intrigued re Glass Houses now. I almost felt aggrieved that a crime as dirty as the drug trade should come to Three Pines – but then again, could it be worse than murder? I’ll let you know what I think when I’ve read it.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. I love the play of light and shade, and have – and still do – often take photos of the interplay of both. (Not sure if I’ve posted any to my blog or not. Shall have to look sometime.) There’s a south-facing wall that I love to watch as the begins to set and the light changes. There’s a wall-clinging plant with berries that stands very slightly away from the wall and the shadows cast often make its branches look stereoscopic.

    I’ll have to leave Plato’s cave for another time as my brain’s just not up to it right now.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ll take to parting Plato’s cave for another meter as my mental capacity’s just not up to it right now. I’ve ruined written material half of the side by side(p) volume and take so many ideas in my straits that I’ve started written material the beginning(a) paragraph of all of the succeeding chapters.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This was such a beautiful meditation on shadow. I think it’s an underrated element of natural aesthetics. Shadows and light obscured by leaves can make for some of the most striking sights. And darkness adds mystery to everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s inter that you pick up on darkness as something to enhance mystery. As someone who was and still is to some extent, a little frightened of the dark, I needed to see shadows and darkness in a different β€˜light’. The funny thing is, in the Bush I’m inclined toward being enveloped by the shadows, becoming one with the dark to feel less exposed. Perhaps even protected. Thanks for your thoughts Luke


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