The Color of Shadow

by | Jul 6, 2022 | 4 comments

But what a strange and sad thing life is, isn’t it? We have to face the fact that nothing we are able to touch is the real consistency we are searching for, while what does seem to us to be the real consistency of the world we are unable to touch. Beati qui non viderunt et crediderunt….”(blessed are those who have not seen and believed.) Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Before, the light used to make the whole surface of things sparkle for me, and I found immediate delight in everything; now it is as though the light were dimmed. The veneer of colour and scene bores me to tears; what I love is hidden.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Last night I worked on the NYT crossword puzzle until after midnight, until after this day had started.

This morning I get up like any other morning and marvel a little bit at how this day no longer feels as heavy. 

I walk the dog down the street and back up again. On the return walk I pass a tree stump that I’ve been noticing on someone’s property. The owner of the house has put a border of wood chips around it and planted a few things- nothing special, an odd assortment really. But every time I pass it, I think of a grief analogy I had read about loss being like the stump. But you go on and plant beautiful things around it, even though it remains. I prefer to think of it as a hole, and you plant beautiful things around it, but every now and then you fall in and are surprised to find it is just as deep. Or maybe relieved, since that is your love and that is a fear of all early grievers, that they might forget. That doesn’t happen. 

I come inside and read a text from my Aunt, two emails from friends remembering “Dan, Audrey, and you.” Tears come quickly then. It’s the love of others that keeps one’s heart from getting bitter or hard or even just numb. It saturates the heart like water in a sponge. Without it, the heart is more like a pumice stone. 

Every year on the anniversary, I remember a blog post that I wrote in August of 2010 entitled “Fifty Years.” 

“This can not be.  It’s just too much.  Then I thought about how it is true.  And how I am going to have to wait such a long time to see you.  I try to tell myself I can do it; the time will go fast. 

But as I’m turning off the bathroom light, walking past your hanging clothes, I do a quick calculation in my  head for the first time.  I realize that if I were to live until 84, it will be fifty more years until I see you again.  Fifty years feels very, very long.”

12 Down. 38 more to go. But no one knows what the future will hold anyway. 

I check social media and think of the first words I wrote on Facebook this day 12 years ago. “So this is sorrow.” I didn’t think about what to write, those were just the words. They just “were” on their own. Today’s Facebook “Memory” takes me to other words I wrote twelve years ago today, “my beautiful husband- i will love you forever until the day I die.” Some things don’t change.

I started taking photos of tree stumps recently. Maybe because of that grief analogy, but also because they are beautiful in their own way, with their rings of life on display boldly even as they sit, so seemingly cut off. Before this it was empty, abandoned bird nests. They seemed so lovingly made with such effort and yet, just one push or gust of wind and they lie empty on the grass. I wanted to memorialize each one in some way.  Before that, and for the longest time, though, it was a collection of shadows. Maybe because our last photo together was our shadows. Or because the last photo he took was a shadow. For a long time, I saw shadows more than ordinary matter.

I decided to go through at least the photos on this computer and gather some of those shadows. Felt like a good thing to do today. To remember. What a comfort to know love rests quietly there. Like the gossamer-like shawl I also find he gave me over twenty years ago and wrap around my shoulders this afternoon even on this hot day. Like the color of the white azaleas on my driveway at night this past May- the color of blue shadow in paintings. My friend Debby, battling cancer for the fourth time, reminds me sometimes, if you see the shadow, there has to be light. It’s right behind you.

*I’m creating a video of some of the shadows on my instagram story. Follow me at @studiesinhope.juliacho


July 6, 2022


  1. Christy

    Thinking of you and Audrey.

  2. Christy

    Thinking of you and Audrey

  3. Maggie Chang

    I’ve followed and devoured your words since a friend shared the NYT Motherlode article back in 2010. Your ability to convey such deep thought and emotion is such an awe-inspiring power. I’ve read everything I could all these years, through depression, relationship turmoil, a cross-country move, the birth of my twins. I’ve always known that the wisdom in your writing would be a source of comfort that would unfold gradually over the years, that the pain you’ve experienced is written in all our stars. And yet, it was only this year that I realized my twins’ birthday is the same date as your dark day, July 6th. No, not the same year because that would be too much, but still. It moves me deeply that one of the happiest days of my life is your darkest.
    I don’t have a point here, beyond just to say, oh what a thing life is – the light and the shadows, forever connected to and shaped by each other.

    • JAC

      Thank you so much for these words.


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