“Where there is much light, the shadow is deep.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In many parts of the country this year, winter has been unrelenting and even spring seems cast in darkness, cloudy grey days lingering like a bad mood. People I encounter in both my personal and professional life seem short-tempered and surly, or depressed and sullen. I’ve been experiencing a crisis of confidence in different areas of my life, questioning my choices, judging myself harshly, or needing reassurance. I’m projecting thoughts, motives, and perceptions onto others. I finally realized I need to face my shadow to find the light.
“If we never experience the chill of a dark winter, it is very unlikely that we will ever cherish the warmth of a bright summer’s day. Nothing stimulates our appetite for the simple joys of life more than the starvation caused by sadness or desperation. In order to complete our amazing life journey successfully, it is vital that we turn each and every dark tear into a pearl of wisdom, and find the blessing in every curse.” ― Anthon St. Maarten
I’ve also been thinking about the duality of life, the interaction of mind and body and the conflict within, between my higher and baser self. When I find myself in a dark place, I need to externalize that which I fear or have disowned. I must embrace and accept it to face it. I must own it and bring it into the light before I can let it go or transform it into the change I envision and strive for. It is the yin-yang of shadow and light, of light and shadow.
In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin-yang which is often called “yin and yang”, is used to describe how opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many natural dualities (such as light and dark, high and low, hot and cold, fire and water, life and death, male and female, sun and moon, and so on) are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept. Yin is the black side with the white dot in it, and yang is the white side with the black dot in it.
The relationship between yin and yang is often described in terms of sunlight playing over a mountain and a valley.
Yin (literally the ‘shady place’ or ‘north slope’) is the dark area occluded by the mountain’s bulk, while yang (literally the ‘sunny place’ or ‘south slope’) is the brightly lit portion. As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed.
Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, and passive; and is associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity and nighttime.
Yang, by contrast, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and aggressive; and is associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime.
Yin and yang applies to the human body. In traditional Chinese medicine good health is directly related to the balance between yin and yang qualities within oneself. If yin and yang become unbalanced, one of the qualities is considered deficient.
Light & Shadow in Photography
Images sometimes help me dive deep internally. Photography, especially black and white, often relies on the interplay between light and shadow, foreground and background, subject and scenery, and intent and accident. I often find myself drawn to how light plays with shadow, and how some things are revealed in the light or hidden in the shadows.
Light and Shadow in Poetry and Prose
A number of my friends and writers whose work I admire are also photographers. I’m thinking of Miriam Hall, Grey Doolin and their essay series, The Spaces Between and D. Allen. I find their written words and visual images often complement and/or contrast with each other, yet each communicate strong messages and tell their own stories. Their images and words are like haikus, reducing poetry and prose to the fewest possible words, conforming to a strict convention, making their messages crystal clear.
Light and Shadow in the Changing of the Seasons
Like the phases of the moon and the sun’s relationship to the earth, the seasons change and we are promised more light than night. In spring and summer we soak in the heat and warmth of the sun’s rays and we become restored.