Shadows are interesting things. They are, in a sense, real but then again not. They exist in a two dimensional world, often misshaped and confusing. Coming and going as the light that enables them flickers and shifts.
Last year, Vivante lay quietly alongside the quay in Poully-en-Auxois, It was well after midnight and Carol had long since headed for bed. I had doused the wheelhouse light and was about to descend the companionway, when a noise stopped me. It was the sound of young people chattering away as they approached the car park adjacent to Vivante’s mooring.
The scene was dimly lit with a single, rather feeble floodlight perched on a pole a good ways away from the car park in which the group had settled. I could tell from the voices, there were both boys and girls, likely of high school age.
At this point, I knew that sleep was not in my immediate future. It has been our experience that the combination of youthful exuberance and a large moored barge with chairs and bikes aboard can result in some unwelcome late night hijinks. So, my normal practice was to hang about for a while to see what developed.
As I settled into the darkened wheelhouse I could not see the figures directly, only their shadows playing off the buildings in the background. Their kit was simple, consisting of a couple of skateboards and a single soccer ball.
Rapid fire conversation was accompanied by the formation of spontaneous soccer dust ups. The ease and casual athleticism exhibited by both the guys and girls was jaw dropping. Seen only as extended forms projected on the wall across the street it was at once both surreal and mesmerizing. Their images punctuated by skaters floating across this darkened stage as though flying just above the ground.
The shadows ebbed and flowed. Footballers flicking the ball skywards then smoothly leaping to the skaters chariots as they passed by. The skaters synchronously shifting to the football skirmish without missing a beat or the ball touching the ground.
They were truly in the flow, not thinking, only experiencing, reacting to the events around them. It was the unplanned, natural and beautiful choreography of youth.
As I sat transfixed, the dark images of the group dancing before me, a powerful memory appeared of the younger me, once the source of such shadows, unencumbered by the weight of time and imbued with that same energy and excitement of a life not yet lived.
Yet I realized that now, I am more shadow than substance. That former self exists only in my mind, a joyful recollection of time long since past. What remains of my image on the wall is a fainter and a bit more distorted me but yet it is still there and that is a good thing.
For just a moment I paused, wanting to call out and thank them for that late night reverie they had bestowed on me, but I did not and went below to sleep and perhaps to dream.