Of Shadow, Shapes, and Shrouded Apparitions




“Then shadows and shapes, shrouded figures, appeared to join him, apparitions, ancient, mythical faces, wise and beautiful, like holy ghosts, shimmering around around him, beside him, beyond him, enveloped by a brume indescribable, shot through with shafts of pink and blue and gold, as though the heavens themselves had opened up and poured out the light into the world.” ― Peter McKinnon



Can you see him?

Not the real man in the hoody hunched by the bonfire, but the apparition.

The shrouded figure, the shape made of mist, smoke, movement.

Can you see him as I see him?

Why do I think it is a him?

Because it feels like a him… but perhaps it is not.

I first set eyes upon him, the apparition, while browsing idly through a series of shots taken almost lackadaisically. The anhedonia was strong that day. I think I only took the photographs because I told myself I should… at least to try even if there was no pleasure or anything else really to be gained from it.

Sometimes you ignore yourself and sometimes you listen. I had been ignoring myself all day, then as dusk began to shroud the land in its gossamer veil, a stirring pushed me to listen.

But my heart was not in it. It wanted to be, but it couldn’t be what it wanted to be.

Several shots later, I returned to my cave and placed the camera to one side. I did not want to see, not with the eyes, heavy with the harshness of light, seeking solace in the sleep of shadow. I thought nothing more of it than of a vague sense of relief that I had done what I had urged myself to do, the urging could be silent now and I could rest in the dark nothingness.

I had watched the man, the real hooded man in the photo, gradually, day by day over the course of a month, maybe more, build his bonfire. Twig by twig, leaf by leaf, errant branch by errant branch cast off by trees during violent winds.

Would he ever set fire to it, or was he building a pile which beckoned to be burned but never would be.

Then the day came, the moment when he enacted a Promethian play. Sparks flew, man with fire… the excitement of power… then it dimmed.

Although the pile’s natural members were dead and dry, ready to be set aflame, to be born anew from their ashes… frosted mist had kept things damp, dreary, depressed with moisture.

So he brought a leaf blower to the party, fanning the flames, as compliments to ego.

You are great, masterful, a genius, no one compares to you, you, you, you… you-nique!

And so it burned in the ever-increasing dark, the flames like a hand warding off what lay in shadow, shapes and shrouded fears, the kind only light can see.

You should capture this, take the shot, make it a visual memory, go, do it, now, now, now… eventually now came, but just to silence the sounds of the inner light which would not accept the dark within.

Going through the shots I felt the same as I did then. Anhedonia danced around with a slow and laboured step. A muse who is never amused.

Then I saw him, the hooded man who may not be a man, an apparition, a shadow, a shape, a shrouded illusion of the optic nerve of a nervous camera in the cold, shaking hands of a reluctant shooter.

A thrill was evoked.

Was this the mythic hooded claw, was that his claw, his claw-shaped hand…

On a day when the warrior swims through the misty waters to meet with the dreamer on the delusional side of the dark of the Moon, while the mind turns backwards… there he was, and was not.

Can you see him?



“The shadow does not wait around submissively to be seen and recognized… They fear it. It scares them. It haunts their dreams… It speaks to those who recognize that they have something to do with what they are experiencing in the world.” – The Dark Side of getting to know yourself by Anja