The Winter Solstice occurs this week. On the shortest day of the year, we cast our longest shadow. I recall a memorable walk I took on the Winter Solstice last December. I was alone, except for the comically exaggerated shadow that playfully followed me.
As my shadow mocked my every move, I felt like Peter Pan, whose shadow was a distinct character in the novel by J.M. Barrie. At its insistence, I finally stopped and addressed the figure that boldly stretched more than fifty feet across the ground as the late afternoon sun hung low in the horizon. My shadow seemed to plead, “Look at me!”
Had I been accompanied by a child or a friend with my sense of wonder, I imagine I would have waved, jumped, danced and laughed out loud at my circus-like shadow. Instead, I just moved my arms and legs a little and giggled, hoping no one was watching.
When we look at our shadows, we don’t see facial features or skin color. We don’t see signs of status or wealth. We don’t see talents or insecurities, good luck or misfortune, successes or failures. We only see the shape of a human body, a vessel that carries us through every moment of our lives.
Despite our individual quirks and idiosyncrasies, we are more alike than different. Line us all up shoulder-to-shoulder around this big blue marble and deep in our shadows we all want the same things ~ health and happiness, equality and respect, love and peace.
Psychology has much to say about the shadow self. My limited understanding is that it’s the darker side of our personality containing parts of ourselves we might not even be aware of or want to admit to if we do. Psychiatrist Carl Jung said, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”
The dark shadow I cast on that sunny winter day didn’t reveal all the things I try to hide about myself, traits I’m convinced are negative, undesirable and embarrassing. The truth is our shadow self is what makes us unique, and understanding it helps us lead a more authentic life. As Wendy said to Peter Pan, “After all, one can’t leave his shadow lying about and not miss it sooner or later, don’t you agree?”
The Winter Solstice marks the beginning of brighter days. It comes at the end of another year filled with stunning moments that should make us re-evaluate who we really are, what we really stand for, and how we really want to live. When the Winter Solstice arrives on Wednesday, I will take my daily walk along an open field. Without any concern for who is watching, my shadow and I will joyfully turn a very sloppy cartwheel. §
“The shadows are just as important as the light. ”
~ Charlotte Bronte, English Novelist