This week’s travel theme from Where’s My Backpack? is “Shadows”. Here’s my take:
Shadows are powerful. Despite an intimate connection with their reflected object, shadows symbolize (to me) sturdiness, silence and (in a backhanded way) absence. A shadow is only a shade of reality, an image guided by the real world but not at all tied to it in size, shape or proportion. In this way, I cannot help by associate the more occult definition to the word, even as it applies to the outlines generated by the sun. Although all shadows recall this sense of otherworldliness in my eyes, there are some situations in which shadows are more critical in drawing attention to what is absent, than reflecting the actual surroundings.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the American Memorial and Cemetery in Normandy, France. We all have seen the images – in movies or photographs – of the endless rows of marble crosses and stars, each representing a life given, unselfishly, in the pursuit of freedom and fight against tyranny. Despite logically understanding what lies ahead as you walk through the memorial – taking in a distant view of Omaha Beach before following a gentle curve towards the burial grounds – the vast expanse of white that unfolds as you proceed, each cross or star creating a full-size shadow on the pristine lawn recalling the spirit it was placed there to represent, will inevitably take your breath away.
After experiencing this tableau, I can think of no better example of the power of shadows. It is possible to stand on the lawn in utter silence, eyes closed, feeling the wind rustling my hair and listening to the ocean, faintly in the distance, knowing that the privilege of my standing there today is due to their sacrifice, not so long ago. Opening my eyes, breathing deep and documenting their shadows guarantees that I will not forget.