In late winter the setting sun shines at an angle between mine and the Breckendales’ home, beaming into the pines in front of my place. And when the Breckendale kids are out there playing between our homes on these sunny evenings, I can see the kids’ shadows jumping from tree trunk to tree trunk right in front of my house. I see it through the front window, like shadow puppetry on stage, and I’m the only audience member, and the kids don’t even know their shadows are on stage. I wonder who the puppet master is; it’s certainly not me. I can’t guess where the kids’ shadows will jump next, they’re just shadows criss-crossing the faces of the pines.
Sometimes I want to clap — in part for the kids, as a reflection of their joy, their laughter that I can hear even through my closed windows, and in part for me, too, their only audience member, my surprise at seeing their silhouettes leap between the trees — it’s a mesmerizing performance. But I don’t clap. Maybe it’s because I’m just sitting there alone at the front window. Who would I be clapping for? But it’s not just that: there’s something tragic in the performance, and one never knows how to react to staged tragedy. Should I sit here with my own silent tears? Should I clap away the tears and with a quiet “bravo” put the attention back on the performance itself rather than the tragedy of the show? I guess I’m becoming a sentimental old lady — lost childhood innocence and the sun setting on playtime and all that. But what a tableaux on those stately trees, lit up by the sun, with just the simplest silhouette of a child skipping across their surfaces, as if it’s just the most basic aspect of a human, captured by sunlight and projected for a brief moment. Is that what we are?
Maybe it’s closer to a religious experience than a tragic performance. Y’know Mr. Bellis calls that grove of trees The Cathedral for how the sun sends shafts of light beaming across the forest floor, the vaulted ceiling of heaven itself just visible through the top branches. He’s a religious man, Mr. Bellis. I’m not sure I see it the way he does, but I do like the notion of seeing The Cathedral out my front window. Who needs Paris when you live in our village?
Do you think it’s compatible to have a child-acted shadow-puppet tragedy in The Cathedral? Is that blasphemy? I can’t decide what to think about the whole thing.