A few nights ago, I dreamed about being part of a meditative evening service at our church, with some post-COVID perils still lingering in worshipers’ minds. We ended the service by singing a canticle whose melody was framed around the evocative chordal structures of ancient modes/key signatures. (Those musical elements continue as reminders of the sturdiness of our faith practices over the centuries.) As we quietly left worship, I could once again see the faces of many of the good folks I hadn’t interacted with for over a year. That added to the satisfying feelings that came along with the dream.
One mantra-like part of that final hymn repeated the semi-poetic phrase, “Shadows of beauty.” When I awoke, those intriguing words stuck in my mind. “Somehow,” I thought, “that idea must have special meaning.” A couple of possibilities follow….
One of the pleasures of being in the company of other older adults is seeing in their faces and behaviors the physical and attitudinal beauties that are still evident. Not easily noticed by those who frame attractiveness too narrowly, but still present. In that sense, the present-day attributes of elders are shadows—vestiges of former realities that accompany each of us as we move through life.
Shadows are most evident when the light is most strong. Our shadows prove our existence, and can also assure us that another beloved or welcome person is close. When I notice your shadow, I know you are nearby. And that makes me eager to see more than your silhouette.
During the dark months of virtual worship, I looked at dim shadows of others. Now, with in-person worship returning, I am able to exult in their physical presence. In that strong light, I will experience them more fully.
And I will sing of their beauty….