I am struggling with my writing tonight. I feel that I have covered what drives me, what moves me, some of what I fear. I am not inspired by generic writing prompts, but tonight I am resorting to a one-word prompt for inspiration…shadows.
Shadows…those images that are in the periphery, void of detail and definition. What are the shadows in my life? Are they all worrisome or are some happiness waiting patiently for me to turn to them in the light?
What lurks in the shadows of stillness…fear of finding my weaknesses.
Often when I am awakened in the wee hours of the night, I am unable to sleep. I usually read myself to sleep within minutes when I first go to bed, but not late. I am usually awake for some period of time after putting a child back to bed or hearing the cat bound through the dining room after some phantom nemesis. I lay in the dark long enough to become aware of the shadows. These aren’t shadows of intruders or noises in the night. These are shadows of doubt…am I doing enough to education my children? Am I kind enough, honest enough, thorough enough? Am I doing everything I can to keep our family financially stable, emotionally stable, spiritually stable?
I lay and grit my teeth. I toss and turn; never really stopping to examine and resolve one topic; adding worry upon worry like layers of paint on an old barn. So, eventually, I get out of bed and find something to occupy my mind until I can rest…put another coat of paint on the barn without getting rid of the ones that came before it. Sometimes I don’t find the peace I need to go back to sleep. Sometimes I am found dozing on the couch when others start the day, having just grown so exhausted that I am able to let go for a short while.
I think I could count on my fingers the number of times I have been willing or able to simply turn the light out and sleep. I rely on books to stop my racing mind; to end the doubts long enough to allow me to rest. Eventually, the paint on that old barn begins to peel and chip. All of those coats of paint become visible again. The shadows of past mistakes; colors that didn’t suit, dirt splashed on near the ground during the rainy season…they all work themselves to the surface again.
The cracks don’t appear if the old paint is stripped before the new paint is applied. I’m not a methodical painter. I love picking the new color. I never paint my barn the same color twice. I love the thought of changing the hue. Is that because the same color means having to deal with the things I didn’t like about the old color? The shadows of unresolved issues are going to make their way back into view someday.
There will always be shadows that I choose not to see…those I choose to paint over (mixing metaphors here, I know!) But, there are shadows that I seek everyday too. I seek the ones that hold adventure. I seek the ones that challenge me to learn something new about the world.
What awaits me in the shadows of the everyday…the thrill of walking in to a strange place.
We don’t always vacation in new places. We have lived for seven years just a half a day’s drive from major cities I have never seen, yet we have not been. I have plans to go…I am blessed and cursed with wonder lust. We have simply chosen to spend our time and resources elsewhere. But, I am motivated to find new experiences in those old familiar places.
We come to the same cabin, on the same mountain every summer. But, every summer we try a new restaurant, try a new vegetable at the farmer’s market, try a different back road on the way home from town. That doesn’t sound like much as I look over the words, but I believe that part of the adventure in these small things is taking the time to see adventure in the simple. I take pictures of the cows in the road. I hang a newly fallen, moss covered branch over the picnic table to be viewed more closely. My husband mows a path to the cherry tree and spares the patch of wild mint he knows I will love. We plant grapes and blueberries banking on future adventures in this old place.
I want to take my children to see the redwoods. I want to visit the Greek Isles with my love. I want to spend a week in an eco-camp on St. John. I long for big adventures, but I relish the small ones. There are always shadows of adventure in the corners. There’s always the fog on the top of the mountain that turns the world into a fairyland. There’s always a cold soda in a glass bottle waiting in an old market on a country road. There’s always the lily of the valley that blooms around the barn, despite the many coats of peeling paint. There’s always adventure in the shadows.