La Sombra

The sun was low in the west when we stepped out of the restaurant. Our silhouettes lay long upon the parking lot blacktop. My friend pointed at the dark shapes on the ground and asked how you say that word in English. I was momentarily puzzled, and then responded, “Oh, shadows. Sha – dows. How do you say it en español?”

“La sombra.”

This must be where the word “sombrero” comes from. A wide-brimmed hat. That which creates a shadow. The word “somber” shares this same source. To be somber is to be cast in shadow, to have the light obscured.

That is another word I like. Obscure. Oscuro. Dark. The term chiaroscuro is used in art to talk about how form is modelled: light played against dark. As in art, so it is in reality. Light and dark give us form. Form emerges, lumenescent, from the pervasive dark. Dark embraces the figure as a cloak, giving shape to the radiant.

Along the river, I picked up the crinkled shroud of a snakeskin. The empty cloak still held form after the serpentine figure had shrugged it off and departed. The translucent skin still shimmers with refracted light, while the snake has slithered into the shadows, to live on in perpetual obscurity. Living la vida oscura.

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