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I Won.

Shadow Race – “A Light in the Attic” – Shel Silverstein

Every time I’ve raced my shadow
When the sun was at my back,
It always ran ahead of me,
Always got the best of me.
But every time I’ve raced my shadow
When my face was toward the sun,
I won.

I listen now to Josh as he does his forensics pieces, and I remember the days when I used to be on my forensics team. I did a lot of Shel’s poems… he was still fairly new back then.

I remember interpreting them from a child’s standpoint. Not that this is a bad thing, it just shows you my emotional level at the time. Back then, I can remember envisioning a small child playing with their shadow… picking up their foot and placing it back on the ground to see if it would return.

Maybe even the scene from Peter Pan when Peter asks Wendy to sew his shadow back on…

It wasn’t until later when I bought “A Light in the Attic” for Corey that I realized that Shel wasn’t writing for children per se. He was writing more about the human existence… and sometimes that meant he had to break it down into childish terms because even as adults we tend to understand things better this way.

Shadow Race has remained my favorite poem since the moment I realized this. This short sweet poem about a child racing its shadow holds the key to success or failure, happiness or despair, Heaven or Hell… all in seven short lines.

If you look at his poem as a poet does, he uses very important descriptions:

Raced- to run away from, to beat, to attempt to conquer.

Shadow- those dark things we want to hide, escape from, or ignore.

Sun- friendship, love, education, kindness… help…. The Aztecs believed the sun was a God. So you could even say religion here…

Back- to turn your back on something means to reject it, ignore it, or disregard its importance.

Face- to turn your face toward something means to accept it… or at least to have the courage to face it head on and deal with it.

So now I look at Shel Silverstein’s poem differently.

Every time I’ve raced my shadow
(Every time I’ve tried to escape from those things in my life that were bad)

When the sun was at my back
(When I rejected the help, love, & support…. that was offered me)

It always ran ahead of me,
Always got the best of me.
(I lost)

But every time I’ve raced my shadow
When my face was toward the sun
(But every time I’ve tried and accepted the help, love, & support… that was offered me)

I won.

Gwen Carver

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