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“When the light is crooked,
the shadow is crooked”

~ A Proverb

I went for a walk in the arboretum on a sunny day during Easter weekend with the idea of photographing some of the first breaking buds of spring. For some reason my head was down, not up toward the sky. What a revelation! Spring is the season of shadows!

The bright sunlight and leafless trees create impressive shadows on the dead grass that is, in certain areas, bleached almost white. The contrast is extreme. As Goethe said ,“Where there is much light, the shadow is deep.”

Some shadows are images of delicate boughs. Solitary leaves of the preceding year are still attached. Other branches express tortured contortions of decisions in life. Some trees cast images of emaciated refugee survivors while others express defiant determination. There are also trees that display the plenitude of a fulfilled life, their branches like many children, grandchildren and great grand children.

Some shadow arms reach out to others in conflict or love. Occasionally the tentacles grasp objects of the material world in embrace or in capture.

And then, as we stand and gaze at the extreme contrast of patterns on the ground, everything becomes reversed. We enter a world of notan where forms inverse. What is figure, what is ground? Are we looking at ice that is breaking apart with great fissures? Is that a great river flowing to the ocean? At some point we must look down at our feet to re-establish our frame of reference.

Quite often we take for granted the frame of reference that we use to understand and discuss the physical world and natural phenomena. We attache labels, words, to things we see in order to manipulate them as concepts in our mind. For example, the word ‘sky’ conveys an idea of a source of illumination. Even in the night sky we search for luminous points. How often do we consider sky as ‘ground’ and not ‘figure’? How often do we consider sky as essentially its dark part? Don’t we separate anything that darkens the sky as something else that incommodes?

Isn't it interesting that the root of the word sky is sky from old Norse, meaning cloud or that which produces shadows? In Danish and Norwegian the word for shadow is skygge and in Swedish skugga, all from the same root as the English word sky.

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