Our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows
Photo by Sarah MacDonald
I can’t remember when I last saw stars. I mean real, honest to goodness, dotting-the-sky-high-above-you stars. On Monday night, I went out into the cold of Grafton, the night cloaking the country around 5:30 p.m., to search for the moon and I found her, bright like the sun, rising in the west. But then I found stars. The sky toward the east wasn’t so dark yet, which felt safe and serene. Some of the inky blue bled into the dark and there: stars.
I thought they were planes or drones or satellites at first, completely in disbelief that these enormous celestial bodies—only specks in our vast sky because of how far away they are in distance and time—existed for me then to witness. For all of us. In the city, you don’t see stars. You see light emanating upward from streetlights, neon restaurant signs, porch lights, above ground subway lighting, streetcars streaming to and from their dedicated start and end stops. You don’t see the stars. Even in High Park, when I went deep into the bramble, logs on the park floor, leaves hiding creatures and secrets, I couldn’t see them. Now, out in the east end, I’m even less likely to, though my spot in our neighbourhood is fairly quiet. I wonder now if silence coaxes them out and sound keeps them hidden. It was quiet in Grafton. Stars could peek out from above and remain there in the cold of late November, unbothered.
I watched the Robbie Williams documentary on Netflix a couple of weeks ago and I had “Millennium” stuck in my head. Now that I’m thinking about stars, I’m hearing the chorus, you know the one, “we've got stars directing our fate / And we're praying it's not too late.” I loved watching that video on MuchMusic during the countdown each week. It’s such a cynical song because I think Robbie was a cynical person then, but the chorus is still fairly relevant—eternal. I think about the universe directing me at every turn—guiding me. I laid on a hard studio floor during my first sound bath meditation and the instructor talked about our spiritual bodies, and I couldn’t help but think about mine being connected so purely to what’s above. I could study it forever, get inside the intricacies of the universe through degrees, rotations, squares and conjunctions of planets, and figure out how I’m being directed. The universe is the greatest director of all time.
Still, I’d rather sit in the dark on a shiny muskoka chair and stare at the sky with awe, without any idea of what she’s plotting for us all.
I re-read Nina MacLaughlin’s essay on November for The Paris Review while I was in the country and here, with the dark sky above, I felt this in my bones:
November holds the in-between. Between warmth and cold, between light and dark, between living and dying. The eleventh month, getting darker, getting colder, echoes our own eventual winding down and gives chance to live in the richest, deepest way. “The space of nothingness is where one struggles to reach a deeper layer of self,” writes Ando. November opens a path to those deeper layers unavailable to us during the rest of the year. It’s an approximation of the expiration date stamped on our foreheads.
There was a space of nothingness ahead of me. What is my in-between? It’s uncomfortable. I occupy it with worries, concern, doing anything but living in the deepest richest way—talking to make sense out of things when maybe I should sit in nothingness.
There was a protest for Palestinian freedom at the MP’s office in my neighbourhood last night. I hugged a friend there I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was so familiar, I loved the feeling of two decades between us in this embrace. I thought of all the podcasts, books, articles, opinions I’ve absorbed since the war began. I thought then of what else happened this year, what other destructions occurred, global or personal. What had we lost? What was lying in the in-between, waiting for acknowledgment? Where had I drifted into my own self-sabotage? It’s powerful, how your thoughts—when there’s a void presented that can help clarify what you need—can take hold and spiral out from you to the world and how everything is going to be destroyed and back down toward this tiny little speck of, “maybe it’s all not enough anyway.”
In the dark, everything is up for grabs.
This year is winding down, closing up, rolling into hibernation—soon to be just a memory. There’s only one month left, what will you make of it? It’s amusing how each year begins with January 1—promptly, neatly—and we all have simply decided the single day before is where there’s an end to an entire year. There must be an end at some point, right? Why not let it be yesterday? Because yesterdays are meant to be reminders of before, and todays are meant to be right now, and tomorrows are always the future you don’t know, even if you plot out the specificities of your life in a journal or a planner, you’ll never know it exactly. So, it would figure yesterday is the end and tomorrow is the beginning.
I don’t have much work left in the year. I’ll be done next week. I haven’t had time off to exist in I don’t know how long. I haven’t done anything that isn’t a prescribed vacation, one I have dutifully plotted out (in my planner, remember?) months prior, so as to be the first one to get my allotted time off approved. I could exhale on those work breaks, pretending like I had control over my life in a way that didn’t revolve around my employment. Now, without the structure of a full-time job, or a boss, or anything tethering me to an institution, I must make these decisions for myself. How quaint. Coming home I thought about all of the promises I made to the moon, full and ripe in the sky, and how deciding for myself, something I do every single day when I make a coffee or sip water in the morning or pick an outfit, feels harder and harder when it comes to the stuff that “matters.” What matters? Like work or not work or money or no money or time or not enough of it or speaking up and out or remaining quiet and taking time or writing or not writing or ruminating or acting. I promised the moon I would make decisions for me, no one else, finally, fully. I promised the moon that my yesterdays would be in service of all my tomorrows.
I wanted to go further into the dark on Monday but it was too cold, and I didn’t bring the proper winter wear. Isn’t that always how it goes? Right to the edge, no further. I looked up at the stars again, trying to imprint their sheen, their grace, into my memory. They will remain in yesterday, an end, a memory. That line in the sand. They are in the sky now, on the other side of the earth, the hemisphere in darkness. They are never not there. I breathed in and out. Turning my head toward the moon again, I couldn’t believe the sight. Like Mary Oliver wrote, “I have never missed a full moon.” She was so clear, crisp. I saw my breath and wondered how it fogged my physical self like the clouds slipping over and off the moon. A little protective veil.