How many dawns have you witnessed? And I don’t mean days, but really, the slow ascension of the sun up the sky, the breaking of the first light that shatters the darkness, creating cracks in it for the light to pour into.
And for every dawn, how much darkness have you endured? How many times have you sat in the pitch-blackness of night until you couldn’t tell where it ended and where you began? How many times have you just had to wait, reconciling yourself with every excruciating minute because there was nothing else to do?
Nothing to do but wait.
Hope that the dawn will come and trust that nothing lasts forever. Not the light, not the darkness.
Note: So, it’s April again and I am trying my hand once more at Escapril, an open poem/short fiction writing event that lasts all of April.
I hope you are all doing wonderfully and are keeping safe and enjoying many beautiful dawns.
“You and all your subterranean lights — may they make the world shine, even as they dim and fade. May they light up the world from the inside, like the earth has swallowed a star that won’t burn out.”
When people die, we light candles to remember them.
To bring a light to the darkness now that they are no longer able to. When someone dies, I wonder how many more lights go out, how many unknown worlds living under their skin are submerged in an eternal darkness, extinguished.
Mourning, grief, they feel like a power cut all throughout the city. Like the spark of electricity has stopped, no longer sizzling with life, leaving us in our rooms, our houses, stranded in the dark. We reach out in the dark but our hands close around emptiness.
Because when even one light goes out, all of our collective lights shine the dimmer. It may not be apparent all across the complex networks, the bundles of lights that can be seen from space, but there is always a gap. Which is why night rides always make me so wistful, you know. Looking at the city lights, at what every single one of them represents. Life, rising above the night. Light, when even the sun does not shine.
In grief, what comes to my mind first is somehow, always, always, this:
“Where is all that light that used to animate your body? Where are the stars in your eyes?”
And the thoughts that were like pulsating lights under your skin? How many more worlds slumber now in the darkness, how many more worlds were there that I will never explore? You and all your subterranean lights — may they make the world shine, even as they dim and fade. May they light up the world from the inside, like the earth has swallowed a star that won’t burn out.
But good things can come from the darkness. Sometimes, when we reach out, we find another hand is reaching out, too. And we can hold on to each other until the light arrives, again. It makes us talk, pop our heads out of the window and ask the neighbours if the light has gone out at their place, too.
“Do you have candles we can light? I have matches.”
We can light them together, and share stories until the light arrives, until the light arrives. We do not have to be alone, lonely in the dark.
And I wonder, when we kindle all these candles for the dead, to light up the darkness — do we, do we look like stars to the stars?
From space, where we are only networks of light, constellations (This one here is China, and this one is Australia, this is…) does it look, to the stars that came before us, that we did not change so much after all? And, did you notice? Much like stars, our individual lights blaze long after we’ve died, because others carry it with them, like a torch, a light of remembrance.
And when one light goes out, how beautiful it is that we pour in our own strength, like a red candle lighting another, and say that no matter how overwhelming the darkness, no matter how deep the grief, this star won’t go out?
Note : Life has its own ways. This was something I wrote on Thursday, a week back, as a general reflection on grief, death and mourning. On Friday, however, I received some news. Saturday, I went to a funeral. And this became too relevant. So now, here it is.
“And it’s not easy— never—the only way to sun-stained hands is to grab the light yourself and never let it go.”
Sun-stained fingers delicately prying open darkened, charred ribs.
Hearts can become such messes, you know.
Clogged with ash, unmoving, hard, cutting like the surface of a mountain.
“Can you even imagine,” she said, “that this used to be young and tender? That it rushed and skipped, halted and leaped.”
Now, it is just a heap of ash.
“Even so,” he says, “you manage.”
“You take a little bit of light everyday, and…”
And it looked so easy for him. Bright, sunny as he was. All golden skin, sun-lightened hair.
“And it’s not easy— never—the only way to sun-stained hands is to grab the light yourself and never let it go.”
No matter the keenness of the burn, the sharpness of the sting. Grab the light and never let it go. Because this burn, it is the burn of alcohol on fresh wounds. It burns because it heals. It burns because it takes away the things that have slipped inside, so tightly enmeshed in parts of yourself.
That night, I let a part of me slip, and in so doing, also gave it to you. But you were too young to understand.
Too naive, too afraid. You understood that this was new, different. But you didn’t have the courage to hold the truth between your hands, like a bird with a broken wing. That kind of courage hadn’t been born in you yet.
I gave you a part of me, and you didn’t know what to do with it. It wasn’t the usual piece of ‘wisdom’ or healing. It was something I collected not from my experiences, not from having existed this long, but from somewhere riskier: myself. And I think that’s what scared you off. Not what I could have done, but what it meant for you now. It was the idea that I could be something you were uncomfortable with. Something you would have to be strong to even hear about. You were young and you didn’t want to venture in it, because some part of you knew that life wouldn’t be the same after. That your image of me would be changed forever, and so would you be. And we would never get back what we had then, the golden days.
And you didn’t want to give that up.
You were somewhere on the cusp of awareness, nearing truth. Faltering in the bliss of ignorance, about to have the rug pulled from under your feet. But you stayed the hand of Life, and the rug remained. You were too young to have the world taken from you. Yes, that’s what it was.
But I showed you a part of me that you didn’t want to see. An unwanted truth. A darkness you wished wasn’t there so you wouldn’t have to deal with it. Awkwardly, I held out my hand, and you pretended you were looking somewhere else.
I gave you a part of me that you were too young to understand. I gave you a part of me I was too young to have, anyway.
No, it wasn’t you.
It’s not you; the fault lies with me. Unable to hide my own intensity.*
I was the one firing truths, but it felt as though you were the one with the bow in your hands.
You know, that day, I was selfish for offering. It slipped past my lips unwittingly, that much is true. But I ask myself sometimes, if there wasn’t some part of me that had planned it all, in the end.
“How many more times do you need to ache to understand that this isn’t normal?”
“How long has it been since you’ve been loved? Since you’ve been seen for who you truly are? How long have you been hiding—cutting off pieces of yourself and burying them in places no one would find them? How long have you been scared of people finding out about your story? How many times have you wished they would? How many more times do you need to ache to understand that this isn’t normal? These memories, these bookmarks of your story—if you bury them, they will only grow. And like baobabs, their roots will find their way to your heart. They will entrench themselves so profoundly that they will take over. Until one day, you will not even see the blueness of the sky. How long until this carefully constructed lie falls apart and you realise how empty you’ve made yourself?”
Note: This is Day 17 of my NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. You can read the entry for Day 16 here. If you enjoyed this, I’ve also written about similar themes previously.
“We do what we do because we want to bookmark our existence, to cry at the Void that we are, we were. For a moment, we were true and infinite and you could not touch us. “
I used to think that lovers who carved their initials on trees were stupid. Why would you hurt a tree like that? I used to get angry. But now that I’m older I get it, I think.
Cave paintings, initials on a tree, even youtube ‘firsts’… You do it to say:
“We were here!”
To show that there was a ‘we’ once. You carve those initials to show that there was happiness and laughter and joy during a picnic on a summer too beautiful, too blurry to remember. We were alive! We lived, we loved. We were there. So complexly, so beautifully, so mind-numbingly, persistently, resentfully, there.
And even though the love has gone, even though our lives have passed, we are still there. We will always be. A picture of us etched into a tree lost in this world somewhere.
We need others to see, others to know. Because it is not enough to tell ourselves it was real. The memory of how real it was will stray in the black holes of our consciousness. It will be lost if others do not remember. If the memory isn’t shared consciousness, or if it is not agreed upon that it is reality, it will all be lost. If you’re the only one who remembers you, then everything you have been dies with yourself. And after a while, you stop being real.
So we try our damnedest to buckle ourselves to choice moments of this life. Even though in reality, Life is a great waterfall that perennially flows, carrying us with its currents. And any attempts to go upstream, to defy its waters will ultimately lead to a slip, a fall. Even so, even if it is foolish, I understand now. We do what we do because we want to bookmark our existence, to cry at the Void that we are, we were. For a moment, we were true and infinite and you could not touch us. We shone so bright we illuminated the ultimate darkness of our existence, like the city lights that sparkle so bright they can be seen from space.
Note: Day 8 of ‘NaNoWriMo’. You can also find the entry for the previous day here 🙂
“You will feel love again, and light. There will be laughter again, as light and free as the sea breeze and contentment as deep as the oceans. “
You’re not done feeling.
You may have gone through pitch-black darkness believing it would never end, but you’re not done feeling yet. This is not it. The darkness cannot take that from you. It may have temporarily blinded you, but this veil will one day drop.
There is a world out there, you know. With the most glorious kind of light—golden and warm. Pink and honey-coloured skies at sunset. There are colours you will see with your eyes closed, sparks that will tingle underneath your skin. You aren’t done feeling. The darkness that has shrouded your heart did not obscure all of it. It could not possibly have, even if there are days when it feels that it has, it has. Because there’s always more room. Always, always room for more in your heart.
You will feel love again, and light. There will be laughter again, as light and free as the sea breeze and contentment as deep as the oceans.
And one day, one day, there will be hope too.
You have so much to feel yet. Trust me, there is more to the palette than just black, and more to life than just despair.
Note: Day 7 of ‘NaNoWriMo’
We’ve made it to Day 7! I almost can’t believe it. Today’s entry almost didn’t happen, too. Yet here we are ❤ I hope you’ve been enjoying this little challenge as much as I have, because there’s more to come yet 🙂
‘ “I understand that you want your time here to matter in a hundred years …but it is only enough to have existed at all, kid. To have stood face-to-face with Time, and looked that bastard Oblivion in the eye.
Your mark, is that you will have walked this Earth, will have sought its mysteries and found yourself along the way. Your mark is that you will have had time. It is enough, to truly have lived and that—” he smiled wryly, eyes twinkling ever so bright, “is the real challenge.”‘
“I am afraid of a great many things,” he began “but not of Death. Not of Oblivion. See, I think…that this is the cycle of life: we are all born, we live, we die, then we are forgotten, eventually.
“Of these 4 stages, we only exercise control on one. So shouldn’t it be the only one to matter? Truly, who’s to say that even if you changed the world, you would not be forgotten? I imagine there are many kings —and queens—” he added with a nod and smile to her, “that we do not know the names and lives of today. And yet conversely, look at Kafka. Look at Van Gogh. Dude lived his whole life underappreciated and miserable. He died and he didn’t know the world would love him. He died, probably, thinking very little of himself. See, thing about Oblivion is, you wanna know people will remember you after you die. That’s how you win, right? So, if you don’t know, then it doesn’t matter. You don’t win at all. What’s the point of people loving you or remembering you when you’re dead? What’s that to you? You’re dead.
“I understand that you want your time here to matter in a hundred years—people might remember, they might not,” he shrugged “but it is only enough to have existed at all, kid. To have stood face-to-face with Time, and looked that bastard Oblivion in the eye.
Your mark, is that you will have walked this Earth, will have sought its mysteries and found yourself along the way. Your mark is that you will have had time. It is enough, to truly have lived and that—” he smiled wryly, eyes twinkling ever so bright, “is the real challenge.”
“To worry about people remembering who you were is all good and well, but how about living so fully that you can’t think of anything else? The distant future, the looming end… How about living so hard you could burst? I’m not afraid of being forgotten. I’m a simple man, I only fear not seizing the moment. Not taking a stroll because I’m worrying. Not going for a drive at 2 a.m. because I’m worrying and that’s not what I should be doing at 2 a.m.. I deal in hypotheticals, but not when they stop me from leaving the house.” he laughed.
Note: Day 2 of the (sortof) NaNoWriMo writing challenge