On a long hike in the desert, hot and exhausted, I warily eye my shadow as I walk. What is it, exactly? Light as air, ephemeral, a filmy silhouette, an inky ghost that fears the sun and rushes to fill and define whatever space the sun can’t reach. But here’s my trick: to trade places with it. Now the shadow becomes substance, ponderous and fleshy, endowed with all the heat and weight and ache that once were mine, while I, projected by it toward the sun, become an airy ghost, an intellectual breeze, a whirl of dust in the shape of a man, perfectly able to float another ten miles, while shadow, poor shadow, scrapes along, slowly stretching out across the desert floor as day declines, so heavy and elongated at last that it can barely move. I’ll stop to watch the sunset, stop to let shadow rest! But then comes the unwelcome realization: I am the one that is temporary, the one that disappears in the dark.

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