It is a cold, frigid night in Toronto. How lonely the wind makes me feel, enveloping my body in isolation. There is a lot happening outside — snow squalls drift aimlessly and bitterly cold gusts blow garbage, trees, branches, into the street. The bumps and claps and booms make noise, noise that only emphasizes the loud emptiness of this place. I wondered, while walking up the frozen concrete stairs to my front door, how the city would look if all of our creation did not exist. It would be a barren land of ice-laden trees, shoe-print-free snow dunes, darkness after sunset. There would be no tire tracks, no street lights, no debris, no complaining about the weather. It would simply be, in its purest state, and then Spring would come and it would carry on beautifully with no one to see it, living and ageing gracefully anyway, dying, then born again. Are we simply in the way of the earth’s natural processes, or have we created them, new and scary and manipulated, like Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, having rebelled against nature only to die at the hands of his own creation, a modern-day Prometheus.
Deep purple is the colour of comfortable insanity, opaque in its very nature. It represents the past, intellectualism, the mysterious, the endless. Everything accentuates purple. To wear deep purple does not reflect royalty, but a delicious secrecy.
Dark green is the colour of love.
Orange is the movement of crisp Autumn leaves dangling in moonlight like dried olives before the Mediterranean sea.
Navy blue is the colour of wonder, ambition.
Deep red is the colour of envy.
Black is the colour of birth, newness.
Gold is the colour of desire.
Tonight I found myself drawn to the outdoors, wandering into the park of my childhood. I was walking down the sidewalk when I saw someone familiar, a young girl peering out from beneath her hunched, awkward pose and baggy jacket. She had an unsteady gait, veering from left to right as she regarded the trees with curiosity, stepped in patterns, dropped something, then bent to pick it up again. We met, and descended the steep hill, lined with mustard-coloured maple trees tinged bronze in the glow of hazy streetlamps; together, not speaking, towards winding gravel paths below. Soon, though, she made a turn and continued on her way, swallowed by the night. I looked after her for a moment, but she did not reappear. I wandered to the willow tree by the bridge, my steadfast willow tree, the one I would escape to in dark moments, once upon a time. I stood underneath in absolute stillness, surrounded by space, the vastness of eternal space, bordered by pine trees and silence, a familiar, welcome feeling of loneliness creeping into my heart. What is it that pervades our senses, our thoughts, to the point of fatigue — the other, the shadow of our ambition and fear, that thing that makes us question ourselves each time we feel the burden of ordinariness weighing inexhaustibly down on us. Gazing at the moon through the tree’s long branches, which hung around me in a protective circle, tickling the ground, I felt ensconced, embraced, as though in a peaceful, tiny Womb. I moved around the circle in a kind of slow-motion dance, compelled by a warm wind, and ran my fingers through its spindly tendrils of willow leaves, which began to move in a blur, drawing skeletal outlines of images in the air, cutting through the deep blue sky — a wristwatch, a book, illegible scrawl, oval mirrors. Starlight and moonlight entwined in the aether, a shimmering, translucent blanket on which rests the dreams of earth people, and I let myself suffocate in its folds, around and around and around. Time passed, I don’t know how much. A few minutes, hours, days, a second. After a while, I found my way out, stumbling onto the grass, shaking as I stood. I stopped, afraid, suddenly aware of twisting shadows, the Cimmerian gloom, how alone I truly was. I wondered if I should go further, or turn around and go home. And then the beginning of Dante’s Inferno came to mind, glaringly, “Midway on my life’s journey, I found myself in a dark woods, for the straightforward path had been lost.”
And so I went forward into the darkness.
Eunoia is the shortest English word containing all five main vowel graphemes. It comes from the Greek word εὔνοια, meaning “well mind” or “beautiful thinking”. Cicero translates eunoia with the Latin word benevolentia.
A ginger tea gets less and less warm in my hand as I stare out at the sky, drinking intermittently, relaxing alone on my balcony on a weekday evening. It’s a moment that I scarcely thought I’d experience again anytime soon. Too much time spent at work, two full-time jobs, has imbibed in me an almost pervasive sense of obligation, responsibility, diligence, vague depression. I awoke this morning panicked, worried that I was late, wondering if I had enough time to take a quick shower, if I have become that person lacking balance in life between work and pleasure. I do what I can to save myself from the horror of stasis and routine – yoga, reading, writing, creating, learning, music, love, family. If only I could immerse myself in those things all the time. We have lost a human culture to capitalism.
Then I remembered, no, today is my day off, and tomorrow, too. I can internally celebrate the news that a couple of Canadian literary journals have accepted my short stories for print publication. I can indulge in the creativity I crave, and finish the novel that I’ve been living in for the past week, on too-brief train or bus rides. I can relax and breathe deeply and lounge outside for hours, stargazing and watching the world move in moonlight. I can imagine.
We have forgotten the beauty of night, locking ourselves in our homes during those crucial hours, missing all of its morbid, beautiful, frightful obscurities. Cicero declared the stars to be gods born out of the aether that possessed sensation and intelligence, and on clear nights like this, I am compelled to believe him. I used to sit outside on my balcony as a child, a teenager, in university, a candle burning beside me, book in hand, stars above, the houses across the street enshrouded in darkness. I would vow to not sleep, to stay outside for as long as possible until I was found, meditating without realizing it. I do this less and less now, but tonight I feel that sense of peaceful déjà vu, reliving a moment I loved. Eunoia.
Unlike the sun, the moon does not reveal, it transforms, and the houses begin to look like faces, garages turned up at the corners in a wicked smile, and then they become mirrors, the windows my own droopy eyes. The moments from our past that shape and refine our future seem to crop up at unassuming interludes. There is a time when you might think that you have lost a part of yourself, misplaced or forgotten in the drone of everyday life, the changed responsibilities and goals. But it seems to work paradoxically, in that the things we’ve lost are the very things that never leave us. I have to sleep soon, but I’m cherishing this moment first, for a little while longer.