We just had 2 & a half days of snow, so I’m not at the symposium I was supposed to be at, and I am thinking a lot about shelter & comfort. I was also reading. (I do that a lot. In this case it was ‘Sanctuary’ by Mercedes Lackey – yes, I like fantasy!). In the book, there’s a description of someone standing up to speak, and the firelight casting his shadow back behind him on a wall, but much taller and larger.
That image suddenly hit home in explaining something I’ve been trying to understand.
There are people who have build large ‘structures’, metaphorically – and sometimes physically – speaking. They have a lot of resources, provide scholarships, offer a variety of therapies or tools or instructors. Some of these people are amazing in what they do.
Some are simply big. They aren’t wonderful therapists (or gardeners or hairstylists or whatever). They’re moderately good at their labeled job, but they either started with a lot of resources or they’re excellent managers, or both. Managing is often their amazing talent. Their structures (writings, art, theories…) are large, widely known, easy to see if you’re looking in their particular field. It doesn’t really matter much where they’re ‘located’ – who publishes their writings, where they meet clients, what they offer. They’re big enough in their worlds that they will be seen.
There are other people who have not yet, maybe not ever, ‘built’ or ‘joined’ a large structure. They may or may not be easy to see. But they are amazing in what they do. Gradually, they come to mean a lot in their community, and if they keep on in their field, they create an amazing impact on everyone who looks their way. They might be easy to overlook if you’re just trying to find the biggest structure. But when you do see them, it matters.
For years now I’ve been trying to figure out how the people I personally admire affect so much without, or sometimes in spite of, being part of a huge structure. I’ve been trying to figure out what on earth I managed to do on the occasions when someone has told me that I helped them in a big way, when I’m not anywhere near the level of those that I admire. I’ve been trying to find a good way to see and touch the idea of one person being barely big enough, but affecting so many more people.
The idea I’ve been looking for is the shadow. For shade, and protection from things like rain, you can have a heavy, good sized shelter like the brick & wood open pavilions in parks; the ones people often hold birthday parties and stuff in in the summer. You can have a huge circus tent, one that requires a whole tuck just to carry it & all the poles & ropes and stuff to set it up. Or you could even have a small camping pop-up, maybe with a little portable grill if we’re adding in food or warmth into the mix. (Looking out at the snow, I’m very glad for warmth. In high summer, perhaps a portable solar-powered fan and a cooler of ice & water would be more welcome.)
Getting back to the topic – each of these provides shelter. But the smaller ones, the pop-up or the wood & brick, are amazingly effective in the right place. If you put them in the wrong place, where the sun & wind blast straight in, they don’t help a whole lot. If you stick one under a lovely spreading tree, it seems a waste of effort – the tree is doing the job. But if one is at just the right angle, working to augment any protection from trees or rocks, and blocking the angle of the sun and wind, it does so much more.
The young man in the book, with the light shining on him, making a shadow that adds to his image as he stands to speak is doing the same thing. He is, one reads, a strong person and very helpful and one of the leaders of the group, in the best sense. But as he stands, he is seen to be all of this to people who don’t even know him, because of the way the light falls. Because of this, they are more ready to accept his assistance. Because of the angle of a well-placed shelter, it provides so more help than another one just like it set haphazardly, or worse, still tucked away and not set up at all!
This is what I’ve been trying to see. This is what I hope for everyone to aspire to. Personally, I don’t have a driving need to build a huge clinic or be known as the author of fifty textbooks. It might be nice to have an office with space for art, for dance, for groups, for one-on-one talks that weren’t all the same room, and if I have enough information to share, I might write more than a series of blog posts. But what I really want is for my space – one room or ten – to be welcoming and safe for the clients who come. I want what I write, or paint, or sculpt, to be seen by the person who needs it. I want to figure out how to stand so that my shadow reaches more people. I don’t have to be standing on top of an tower, I just have to allow the elements that are already there to work with me, rather than fighting them or hiding from them.
Location, location, location, they say. Not a physical location, not for this. It’s standing in the right place to provide a hand over the rough parts, a shelter from the worst of a blast of memories and emotions, the right amount of shade for someone to see the details in a thought. The people I really notice are the ones whose shadows give me a bit of protection to grow a bit more myself. I’m thinking if I put myself where the elements I like affect me best, but still allow others a place in the warmth or the cool, the sun or the shade, that shadow might just happen naturally.