Monday, March 19, 2012

Light and shadow: a vignette

She kicks her shoes against the gravel at the edge of the path, making a tcha-tcha noise with her tongue against the gap in her front teeth.

"Don't scuff your shoes, E," I say mildly. "They'll get wrecked." She grins and nods a little absently, and keeps dragging her feet, lost in some internal dialogue that probably involves horses, magic, rainbows and astrophysics.

In the pusher, C exclaims, "YOOK! A butterfly! See, over there..."

A hitches her bag higher onto her shoulder and says, "Our shadows look so long today. Why do they look different sometimes? Is it because of the sun?"

E emerges from her dreamworld, interested. "Yes, is it?" she asks.

I nod. "Mmmmm," I say. "Because of the rotation of the earth, the sun appears to be at a different place in the sky throughout the day. Your body blocks out a different amount of light depending on how high above head the sun is - so your shadow is longer at the start and end of the day, shorter in the middle of the day."

We cross the road, the big kids' hands on the pusher handle. The sky is the most perfect clean blue, completely cloudless, and it's getting warmer already.

E says, "Look, your shadow goes over the top of mine. It's strange."

A says, "Everyone has a shadow, don't they?"

Tempted as I am to retort, Except vampires!, I simply nod. "Sure, unless there is no direct sunlight. Cloudy days don't make shadows."

C burst out in delight, "A pidgeon! I did see one! An' a minah bird too!"

E flashes her sudden grin and leaps forward, landing both-feet-down on her sister's shadow. "I stepped on your head! I stepped on your head!" she crows.

A growls and squeals, "I'll get you, you little -"

"A," I warn, my eyebrow raised half a centimetre. Just enough to let her know not to try it.

For the rest of the trip, A tries in vain to jump on E's shadow. Quicksilver, they dart in and out of my path, a lightning shell game, half in fun, half in earnest. They laugh, and shout. C laughs too, and says, "Where is MY sheddow, Mummy?"

At the gate, they break away, headed for separate friends and separate days. "Have a good day," I call after them.

E turns back and blows me a kiss. And A quickly, triumphantly, stomps on her shadow.

"THERE!" she proclaims, finally satisfied.

Their shadows trail long behind them as I watch them go.

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