4/27/2011

Shadow Becomes You


Frankly, we see shadows everywhere, and they are just fine. In actuality, shadows would not be with us if it weren’t for a perspective they are created with. A photographer should know.

Visiting favorite spots has advantages if you stop for a moment and look again. Often you surprise yourself with new things staring at you. Including your own shadow.

A favorite spot for us is Maryland’s St. Michaels at one of the Chesapeake Bay inlets. At lunchtime Grazyna and I enjoy making Ava’s Pizzeria our destination, with a gourmet cuisine of locally produced fresh ingredients, and where, as they state, “we use the finest cold press extra virgin olive oil, cook our potato chips to order, and make our own dough and fresh mozzarella. Everything is made in house…”

What caught my attention the other day was a wall art of sorts on Ava’s patio. I was looking at a graffiti of a man – a cook, perhaps - carrying a dish, who was on his way (it appeared) toward a kitchen door. Honestly, you sit down, you order, you look around, and then you see something about yourself in a detail on the wall.

No, I am not crazy. Not that way, anyway. There is this man whose eyes were staring at you, and he appeared to be followed by his own shadow. On a surface of things, there was nothing spectacular I was looking at. But the shadow supplied me with a haunting thought as I internalized the image and gave it a required retrospection.

The restaurant owner and chef, Chris Agharabi, must have noted my “moment” with the image on the wall, as he was playing with his daughter, Ava, near-by. He remarked about the graffiti to be painted over, as it was… scary-looking. Then I went for my camera with intent to immortalize a “cook with his own shadow.”

As I was waiting for my fennel and arugula salad with goat cheese, and with lemon oil vinaigrette, my retrospection kicked-in. It gave me a moment with my own, personal shadows. Are they easily painted over and made bygone? My thoughts didn’t stop there. The proverbial skeletons in the cupboard appeared out of nowhere.

My sub-conscience was calling for answers. This time it was the arrival of fennel and arugula that saved me from adding yet more shadows and spinning myself into a realm of ever-present denials.

A few Big Words come up - authenticity, transparency, honesty, walking the talk. If there were a moral MRI scan available, would it prompt one to deal with required life-course corrections?

Honestly, all too often I give myself a frequent and automated political treatment when it comes to words and actions; when it comes to authenticity and pretense. Many years of involvement with a corporate milieu etched in me a grid to evaluate the "private" and the "public" when engaging in communication. Nothing’s wrong with some stuff being private, and some being public. But come to think of it – how often I was told to be like… someone else? If I didn’t follow the instructions, I felt guilty and undesirable. From time to time – I admit – even now I resort to a guilt-ridden way out with: What will others think?

Be yourself! I remind myself in the morning, only to discover that my afternoons receive an auto “public” treatment.

This piece of personal reflection will not end with a moral to this story, or a resolution, and perhaps opting for another promise to change my life. I will end it with a plain reminder to be... who I am, and not worry what others will say. Period. That’s all I am required to be - myself. I think.

The shadow and the cook will be painted over, I was told. But the image will remain. I took a picture of it, and after I shared it with Chris Agharabi, he wrote to me that he likes it better. “Your photos are actually better art that the art itself!" What an attitude! That’s why I like the pizza they prepare at Ava’s. It’s made with the freshest ingredients possible. There is no shadow of a doubt there. I think.

Will another graffiti need to leave us forever?