shadow box

“Shadow Box” ©Sara Schupack, 2019

           Moonlight through dark forest trees. The moon’s roundness is blocked by crooked branches. A curved horizon blends forest to sky or to deeper forest – it’s hard to tell. The picture is done in charcoal, which softens the image, making it as inviting as scary. There are patches of misty moonlight, soft as cotton balls amongst the trees and haloed around the trees like hope.

         I am not drawn in for comfort, though; it is the darkness, the mystery, even the danger, I think, that appeals to me. Moments of joy amongst struggle, happiness that sneaks through gloom, perhaps this seems more precious and valuable than long-term happiness which blends into complacency if you’re not paying attention. The bad adds interest, texture, contrast for the good. 

        I try to imagine my mother making this picture. She usually does daytime images with color, peaceful landscapes or close up views that become abstract in an intellectually surprising, playful way. This one is very dark for her. She puts on a good face, only dropping little hints now and again when she is sad or not feeling well or disappointed in someone. You have to guess and fill in the blanks. Winters seem to have gotten longer and lonelier for her. Sleepless nights that she downplays must be adding up. She said once that she was afraid of going to bed, because she couldn’t bear to face waking up only an hour or two after trying. 

        I picture her tossing and turning, and then getting practical. She is not a person to wallow or waste. She gets up, looking for a book to read, and spots the moon outside the window. It is brave and bright and attempts to ease shadows, but maybe cherishes those shadows too. My mom decides to make something of her darkness. She makes this painting and then in her usual generosity, one time when I’m visiting, says “pick out anything you want.” I choose this one. I look at it every day. I try to picture her making it. I try to understand why I’m drawn to it. But I don’t try too hard. I cherish it.


©Sara Schupack, 2019

           Sara Schupack grew up in the Bay Area. She went East for college and then to the Far East for a teaching fellowship and many adventures, including the East Asia Writing Project in Thailand. Since then, she has taught and studied on both coasts and in the middle. She now works in Hayward, sending old-fashioned letters to her son Teddy, and cuddling with her dog Marshall.

One Response to “Some Light by Sara Schupack”

  1. I love the ending of this piece. After you’ve made the picture such a tantalizing image and then personalized it as part of your mother’s experience. There is so much empathy. And then you say you don’t want to try to hard – you cherish it. It’s really lovely.

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