Monday, September 17, 2012

The Philosophy of Shadows

motorcycle shadowIf the Humboldt Redwoods State Park reveals any truths, its the smallness of ourselves, how trivial our existence, and how plagued we are over our fear.

Highway 101 through California's Central Valley seemed long and straight until Sash and I had ridden far enough north to where the terrain was carpeted with old growth redwoods dating back hundreds of years.  The thickness of the trees and the darkness of their shadows forced the road to become more narrow, and the air to become more cold.

As wide and tall as these redwoods are, they put up no defenses, allowing mankind to cut them down en masse.  Trees as old and tall as these never lie.  Each one records its memories in the growth rings of its cross-section.  There's something triumphant about conquering something so large and strong yet something so cowardly knowing it won't resist our industrial endeavors.

It's only when a ray of light shines upon us are we followed by a shadow.  

Shadows are ourselves, but they show no expression.  They exhibit none of our fears or hurt, and they erase away all of our joy.  Despite our best attempts at foiling their efforts, they never fail to follow us wherever we go.  They practically haunt us, taking our shape, copying our actions, reenacting our mistakes and successes, as if they kept a ghostly tabulation of our hits and misses.

Sometimes my emotions become too much for me to handle, and I find comfort in my shadow.  I almost envy it, able to sail along the highways on my motorcycle in complete silence, free of all misery, yet not completely alone.

However there are moments when I want to forget about my past and blaze a new trail.  Yet, my shadow never ceases to follow me, reminding me of who I am, almost mocking my attempts to run away.

Only in the wide open outdoors, under the life-giving warmth of the sun, is my shadow ever there.  Only when I'm free to run in any direction and maximize the potential of my abilities, that the cold, darkness of my shadow is there in equal match.

Sash and I soon found ourselves in near night as Highway 101 wound its way into the Humboldt Redwoods underneath of canopy of trees so thick and tight, that only the luckiest rays of sunshine poked holes into the melancholy of darkness.

Our shadows had left us, leaving us to ourselves against a seemingly endless avenue of giants, as if we had to face our fears alone in a cold place of daytime night.  Slowing down to a more manageable speed, these redwoods had seen a billion souls before, and we could sense their lack of emotion and lack of concern, yet feel the awesomeness of their presence.

You can't enter into a courtroom without feeling cold and alone, and such a courtroom of behemoths can squash the humanity right out of us.

It wasn't that our shadows had left us, but that our shadows had been swallowed up by bigger shadows.  We were basking in the same cold, uncaring yield of these old growth redwoods.  Centuries of history recorded within their rings, memories of placer camps, indigenous people, fur trappers, and explorers, had shadowed over us in fell swoop.  The stories they told, of Humankind and Nature, mixed together into a plasma that Sash and I found ourselves awestruck by.

As beautiful the Humboldt Redwoods are, they are as equally cold and uncomfortable.  As awesome and impressive their size and strength, they are equally as submissive and yielding to our fragile and brief existence.

The warmth of the Sun may be reassuring, but is equally met with the cold, emptiness of the shadow.

philosophy of shadowsNo matter how fast we ride, or how low we stoop, it sees all that we are, our failures and successes, and never fails to remind us of who we are.

As Highway 101 lead us out of the redwoods and into wide open country, the warmth of the Sun once again found us, but just as quickly the meager truth of our existence was cast upon the pavement below.

  

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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)