Bring on the Shadow

As I was getting ready to write a letter to my “pen pal” today it was fitting that I found it necessary to discard an old pen from my desktop container before turning to use a blank card that I’ve kept around since I got it when I provided a staff training for The Perkins School for the Blind a few decades ago. 

I then remembered many of the different organizations that I had occasion to work and it occurred to me that I could write a book (IF I could write a book) called My Life as a Butterfly. After all my business was called the Chrysalis Consulting Group.  It’s fun to think of the many groups of people I’ve met with to draw forth their nectar to be shared with their co-workers.  It’s a very satisfying image for appreciating the way I tried to highlight people’s strength and beautiful desire to do good work. But then, overthinking took over and I decided it’s actually hummingbirds or bees that draw out nectar for themselves (leaving the flowers none the worse for it, it’s true).  So, maybe the book should be My Life as a Bumble Bee. Nah, I prefer to believe my beauty enhanced their beauty.

That pencil holder on my desk could be emblematic of many aspects of a person in my life stage with its curious collection of pens, pencils, scissors, rulers, a comb and even some dried up golden gum massagers.  The most “essential” thing in this lovely octagonal Asian box is a Malaysian shadow puppet, actually two of them: paper cutouts mounted on thin black sticks with additional sticks at the ends of their gold-painted arms. They are dancing women with colorful clothes, golden bodies topped off with intricately cut black heads of hair braided and cut for the light to shine through.  One of the women has a golden face that looks forward; the other has a black face and is looking down.  To tell the truth, after all these years I just now remembered this distinction.  In fact, the golden-faced puppet had slipped down out of sight almost completely until I began this reflection.

Every writer’s desk should have a set of shadow puppets.  I recently read a meditation on the shadow by Franciscan Father, Richard Rohr, in which he pointed out that both our personal and our collective shadow is the part we don’t have consciously in mind, the part we don’t value enough to give it the light of our respect or appreciation.  He suggests that in the United States culture, nonviolence, equality and mercy-based policies are in the shadow of this competitive, profit driven society.  Shadows aren’t bad; they just need to be kept in mind where they can perform their balancing act. So, he suggests, the shadow we need to bring into light and balance could well be the goodness that been kept in the dark.  

It is apparently time for me to bring out the wisdom of the archetypes and put dried up old tools to the side.  Time for the shadow sisters to dance together.  Bring up the lights so the gold can glow.    Huh, maybe It is time to write My Life as a Butterfly and let those hummingbirds and bees to do their own work.