By Ellen Lorenzi-Prince

Copyright © 2002



Shadow Walking


   I have a goddess. That makes me a priestess, though one without a temple. I don’t mind that. To know her is enough.

   She shadows me throughout the day. She helps me do what I must. The hint of her is like a promise, an invitation to the night.


    At night I lie down on the bed. I am specially clad and perfumed for this. My lips curl in irony because I am alone, and then smile deeper because I am not alone. Her presence pricks my skin.

    I reach down to Earth’s darkness, to hold riches inside me, to be still and safe. There, yes, holding it there.

    I reach out into space, to split me apart and set my soul free. Oh yes, yes, there.

    "Hekate,” I whisper, “Teach me what you will."


      I’m walking through dark woods. How lifeless and miserable the trees are. But look at me! I am so beautiful, shining white and golden in the gloom. I am the princess most fair. My power is in my beauty; I will draw others to my aid. My old stories told me so. 

    But there is no one here to see. 

    I walk, and it is dreadful and dreary. My radiance cannot change the broken blooms or dusty leaves.

    I walk, but there is no reason. I walk, but the forest is ugly and endless. I walk, but there is no one to come. I am alone. Alone, I have no power. Alone, I can do nothing.

    I collapse into helpless tears.

    I am jolted out of that body as it crumples into a heap of lovely clothing.

    Someone arises from the cast off clothing. Not a useless princess but a woman warrior. Strong in arm and thigh. Resourceful in any situation. All my new stories tell me so.

    I want to join that body, but I find myself hesitating. Look how the last one turned out. But why not be her? This is what I want. Who I should be. And I shouldn’t be here without some kind of body. Dear goddess, if parts of me drift even further afield from the body lying on the bed, I’ll lose consciousness altogether.

    So here I am, strong in arm and thigh. I stride through the dismal trees, calling out. “Here I am! Just come and get me!”

    I stride and stride and nothing happens. The trees, the shadows, are the same and the same and the same. I walk for miles. Everywhere is dull and vast and changeless. I could walk a hundred miles, but it’s a waste of my energy. I will not set another foot forward without purpose.

    It happens so slowly that I am stuck in the body, witnessing our destruction. I become still and aware. Then still and listening. Still and meditating. Still, so still, the body has become a shell of stone. And still I dream, great big woman warrior dreams.

    Until I finally crumble to flakes and dust.

    What emerges, what I am, is no more than a slip of a shadow. Just another shade of the forest, wafting through the mossy trees. Aimless. Heartless. Depthless. Barely remembering who I once was.

    But now I can see better the other shadows flitting alongside me.

    "Who are you?" I think to ask one of them.

    It answers, "I'm the part of you that replays all your stupid mistakes, going back over and over where you’ve proved weak or ignorant. Let me think now… How many years can we go back, to how many humiliating moments? And what was that last thing you said you wanted to take back?"

    Great! Here’s a part of me I don’t need.

    Except I do.

    I am too close to not being enough. I feel much too close to some permanent loss. I need any part of me I can get.

    So I open my arms and the droning little shadow leaps into my heart. I mean, where my heart would be, no, where my heart is. Because now I am more. I am denser, deeper. I feel tender, and the shadow is welcome. And I’ve caught a glimpse of what wholeness might be.

    We won’t be hurting each other so much anymore, this little one and I.

    I open my arms to all my little shadows.

    They pummel into me one after the other. 

    It happens so fast I don’t know what kind or how many I’m letting in. But each shadow builds me up, and the next one packs it in. Shadow condensing to darkness, darkness to presence to weight. I am real again, I can move again, I can choose. And I want to dance.

    I dance and I am a thousand dancing. I am a dark reality being, happy to just dance, and I dance among the brightly blossoming trees.

     Then I am back on the bed and the adventure is over.     “But, Hekate, I want to know what all the other shadows were too.”

     “You don’t ask for much, do you?”

     I am silent a moment, before I bare my neck to her. “You know that I want everything.” I tremble lest she touch me. That I might have more of her than voice and vision. That I might feel more than her shivers.

     “And what will you give in return?” she prompts.

     “Everything.” I vow to her.

     Everything, my heart echoes. 

     And that is what she wants to hear. Because she leaves me then. I trembled in vain. 


     But the next day I feel better than I have for a long time. More real. More me. And when someone tells me I gave him the wrong change, I laugh and I laugh and I laugh.