All posts by yara

Sixty Frames

We take photos to remember. But which frame should you choose to capture, which to recall?

Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.
― Marc Riboud

A human lives, on average, for 25,915 days. Each day contains 86,400 seconds. Each of those contains trillions of instances, of frames. Of these we exist in all, remain in none, remember, perhaps a few. Each second, our brain is only capable of perceiving an average of sixty frames.
We see sixty out of trillions of moments of life. We must choose our frames wisely. So smile for the camera. Be still. Look at or through the lens. See.
We are here, we are here now, but we and time are fleeting.
Quick, take the photograph. Snap the shot.
The only proof this moment ever existed will be in our memory.
The first frame: the beauty spot on the left temple, slightly below the eye, of a little boy sleeping in my arms on a Sunday afternoon in June. Second frame: the angle at which the eyelashes curl, the barely visible crow’s feet. Third: the light, at the most perfect of a trillion angles, capturing the gold in his hair.
Pause in this frame. Stay an instant in this instant. Then move on to the next.
There are the obvious frames and moments that shape our lives. The time-stopping, happy milestones at which we take photographs. The family portraits in Sunday clothes on birthdays, weddings, lunch on Christmas Day, college graduations, anniversaries. The flash-infused commemoration of ourselves, inevitably solemn and confused, against the white or blue background of a passport, driver’s license, student or voter’s card.
Then there are the broader frames that define our lives, with their own obvious protagonists. The zoomed-out shots of inaugurations, revolutions, jubilees and celebrations, crowds in the streets on New Year’s Eve. The portraits of politicians, popes, queens, economists, businessmen, movie stars. The mugshots of murderers and terrorists. Fashion trends immortalized on a runway, peace deals over a handshake. History written by war declarations, rocket launches, touchdowns, standing ovations, raves.
Sixty frames out of trillions, in every second of every life. Even those, if we blink, we might miss. So we take photographs; a choice of the moments of our lives we want to commit to memory.
Zoom in on the fourth frame: looking up at mother’s hand. Fifth frame: father’s shoulders, looking down. Sixth: the seesaw partner in the playground. The stuffed animal; guardian of the bed. The siblings, the superheroes in comic books. The doodles in the margin of the page. The eternal baker in his eternal shop. The flour on his arms and mustache. The friends, the posters of boy band members, the flyers of missing pets.
We do not choose or shape our lives. Where we are, or for how long. But we are here and we have now. Let us be here now.
We create reality, we exist in every frame we choose to see. In the oceanic folds of the bed sheets on a Tuesday, the creases on the pillow left by a cheek. In the steam wafting out of a coffee cup, the precious last crumbs of a croissant, silken gold mixed with green flakes of thyme on the white porcelain plate.
Look at where, when, who we are,
at and through the lens. See.
Now. Immortalize this trillionth of a second in a photograph.
Forty-eighth frame: ice cream stickily dripping out of the corner of a mouth. Forty-ninth: the dimple that appears in the exact same spot every time that mouth laughs.
Fiftieth: the musician in the metro, playing that French song you like. Fifty-first: the lonely two pennies and bill in his open guitar case. Fifty-second: the dog sitting patiently by his side, as he has done for hours, days, weeks. Fifty-third: the hand scratching his ear gently, his eyes closing happily.
Fifty-fourth: an old couple in the park, on the sunny side of a bench. Fifty-fifth: her fingers interlaced perfectly in his. Comfortable, matching shoes. Fifty-sixth: a cloth bag on the ground next to them. Bread and oranges peaking out. Fifty-seventh: the kitchen table a short walk away, on which butter and honey await.
Fifty-eighth: a sonogram. Fifty-ninth: tears. We can be infinite in sixty frames per second. Quick, snap the shot. We were here.

On a Thursday

Getting lost in memories, on trash day.

Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar. – Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ten o’clock in the morning, another alarm snoozed too long. The sun’s rays, sprinkled on the white sheets, have gone progressively from a gentle warm to an uncomfortable hot, and the early morning, indigo silence has given way to the bustle of a city well into its day.
Eyes still closed, she observes: today is Thursday. She parts from the pillows and puts on her robe, double knot around the waist.
The small steel mocha is in the kitchen, in the same spot on the counter as it was yesterday. And has been since the day they first set it there, years ago, till they could find a better place.
That spontaneous, three-euro buy long ago, on a road trip through Tuscany. The old stove that had to be coaxed and wooed to work, in a friend’s kitchen in Sant’Angelo. The first cup of coffee the mocha proudly brewed, which tasted like garden soil. That he drank with a smile nonetheless and declared the best he had had in his life.
Now it smells strongly of the many cups of coffee it has since, more expertly, poured. This morning, same as yesterday, it pours one cup more. She sips it on the couch she remembers them buying with their savings some time back, and contemplates this day she already knows, has already lived a few times.
Today there will be letters and emails to answer, phone calls and the bed to make.
The clumsy, wonderful first time he tried to make the bed himself.
Groceries to be acquired, dinner to be cooked.
Frozen pizza and chopped lettuce, on the floor that first night. The for-no-reason, romantic dinners, the dozens of dinner parties since. The lazy Monday night take outs, the Thursday night pairings with wine, dancing in the kitchen, stove forgotten, dinner left to burn.
Shirts to iron, a week’s worth of laundry to do, dry, and put away.
Bubble baths wrapped in those dryer-warm towels, Sunday mornings in those sheets. The day, three years ago, the exact shelf and aisle, where a younger version of him and her first picked them out.
A distinguishing note: the trash to take out. Today is, after all, Thursday.
When did coffee become just coffee? When did the white couch turn grey? She really must have overslept; today looks just like yesterday. She wonders what happened to the color, the laughs, the poems she used to have. What else she absent-mindedly, lately, threw away with the trash.
The bin by the couch is full to the brim, overflowing with the remnants of other days; bits of ribbon, an old newspaper, landscape cutouts from travel magazines. Plane tickets and movie stubs, out of focus photographs. She kneels by it and rummages through, looking for the life she misplaced.
Drafts of letters, half written, unsent; receipts for paintbrushes and bouquets. Last month’s utilities bill, the synopsis of a ballet. The program of an evening of chamber music, a recipe for chocolate soufflé. An empty bottle of Saint-Hilaire,
Love at the first glass she tried, it must still be here, the poetry, the love. She cannot have used it all up.
Suddenly, a silver chocolate wrapper studded with dark blue stars. Baci, her favorite, one, two, five of them. The bin was full of stars!
A summer in Florence, 2015. The first bite-size piece of chocolate and hazelnut, wrapped in a love note. ‘We choose our joys and our sorrows long before we experience them,’ it read. Gibran, like everything, sounded better in Italian.
Un bacio is one kiss, baci are many, and of chocolates and kisses she slowly remembers hundreds, since that first one they shared.
Love Note number 7 is Dickinson: ‘Till I loved, I did not live enough.’
‘Love is the poetry of the senses,’ Balzac. Note number 139.
‘Grow old with me,’ writes George Sand. ‘The best is yet to be.’
‘In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities.’ János Arany, number 42. The sun bounces off the shiny notes as she pulls them out one by one. The fog lifts as she reads the last word; she knows where she left her life.
She rushes back to bed and starts the day over; today is Thursday. Eyes still closed, from the walk-in closet, she picks out a white lace dress.
Today she will make coffee again, and the bed, wear opal earrings and ballet shoes. Answer correspondence in verse, iron shirts to jazz. She will cook with wine and use the bottle as a vase for wildflowers she will pick. She will empty the bin, and tonight there will be new Baci wrappers to fill it with.
‘Yes, there is a Nirvanah; it is in leading your sheep to a green pasture, and in putting your child to sleep, and in writing the last line of your poem.’ And taking out the trash on Thursday.
Seven o’clock in the evening, another day gone too fast. The sun’s rays are receding quietly, the neighbor is playing Chopin. ‘[…] Love coming out of the trees, love coming out of the sky, love coming out of the light.’ Same as every day, same as yesterday, except today is Thursday.

Landscape, in C sharp minor

This is how you turn music into color.

“Model required.” Casting call.
In they come, one by one, heels clicking thunder on the gallery’s hardwood floors. The oak is centuries too old for this. The eleven o’clock sun rains in through the glass panes, flooding the space with light, making love midway to the Beethoven streaming through the speakers in the corner. What color is a sonata anyway?
An empty frame, in silver and gold, waits obediently against the white wall.
The first model climbs in, a well behaved hue of blue. She disrobes timidly, looks down. A study in neoclassicism; line over color, a sublimation of the form. The model as an ideal; an aria in monochrome.
I pull out my brush.
“Is yellow warm or cold?”
The model does not talk back. She does not look up. I ask again anyway, and dip the brush in paint. Under my strokes, her pliant fingers, elbows, bare shoulders comply. She evaporates before my eyes, in a muted green haze. I paint a “Still life in aqua.”
But it is not a sonata, so I help her out of the frame. Wafts of green trail behind her as the heels click apologetically out of the room.
The second model hurricanes in, a red so concrete it turns the air opaque. Her angular heels poke holes in the canvas as she climbs into the frame. A study in abstraction; the model as a structure. Order and discipline, uncorrupted design, to which my paintbrush wrecks havoc. A revolution in the frame.
“Is yellow warm or cold?”
The model does not, cannot hear me. The warring colors are so loud, even Beethoven is muted. With shards of neon orange, my brush stokes the flames. I paint a “Portraiture of fragments.”
Still, not a sonata, so I shake my head. She marches out, defiant. The air behind her clears. I hear the floorboards creak again.
What color is a sonata? Is yellow warm or cold?
The third model walks in, and suddenly, the music explodes.
She is the three primaries. The blonde, brunette, and the redhead. The red, yellow, and blue. The model as a possibility, the multiplicity of the self. Vulnerable and provocative, sensuous and naïve. She climbs into the frame, and stares. At me.
I burst into pigments like ripe summer fruit; infinite colors and notes spill out. Soaking the canvas, overflowing the frame, dripping onto the parched oak. Staining the walls, the music, the light. The whole gallery becomes a self-portrait.
There are buckets of paint everywhere, on every surface, in every shade, and I use them all. The sonata is every color I want it to be. Warm and cold and vibrant and bright, it rolls off my tongue, my lips, my chin like syrupy elderflower.
The music rises frantically to a final trill. I paint a “Landscape, in C sharp minor.”

Party of One

Perhaps Paris is best enjoyed without company.

4, 6, 8 … 10 avenue des Champs-Elysées. A century old greenhouse hidden away on one of Paris’s loudest, most hurried streets. White wood paneling, sunlight streaming in, in summertime the terrace looks onto the Grand Palais.
From the kitchen’s innocently open windows, aromas of herbs and slowly cooking wine waft out, stopping a wandering passant. A gentleman d’un certain âge, a definite flâneur, in a navy blue coat, well cut, collar up. About him lingers a hint of Eau Sauvage, and the quiet refinement of one who has well read, traveled, seen, and done. On his left hand, a gold wedding band and a fine brown leather watch. He consults the latter, and one more time inhales. Then, seduced, he walks in.
Through the neatly trimmed garden, up the white marble steps. By the door, a wine list, and desserts on a golden cart. The visual temptation amplifies the olfactory; intricate and delicate, crafted like art.
The maître d’hôtel, however, apologetically says:
Désolé, Monsieur. Nous sommes complets. ((I apologize, Monsieur. We are full.))
Not a table available, not even for one.
But as he watches the gentleman leave, the host has a thought.
Attendez Monsieur! Upon reflection, I believe we do have one.
At the Pavillon Lenôtre, there is a table, with white linen, white roses, fine china and silverware. And a single, perfectly positioned, proud Louis XV chair. Silver salt shakers de chez Christofle, crystal glasses from Baccarat. And the most beautiful view in all of Paris, from across the baie vitrée.
The table cannot be requested, and is always reserved. It is the perfect setting for a party of one.
Its guests are assigned at the maître’s discretion; historically eclectic and few. Old, young, ladies, gentlemen, wealthy, and poor. Frenchmen, foreigners, literate, or not. With nothing in common, save for a quiet way of walking in and inquiring about lunch, tea, dessert – for one.
The gentleman is deemed worthy. He is escorted to his seat. Coat taken, napkin unfolded. The wine is poured in silence, the first plate quietly placed. The guest is left alone, with silence, Paris, and a feast.
En entrée:
Ravioles de langoustines et bouillon de crustacés, ((To begin, scampi ravioli in a light shellfish broth)) accompanied by sips of crisp, young Bandol blanc.
A warm piece of baguette shamelessly sops the light shellfish broth. One lingering sip of white wine.
Remise en bouche: a fresh lemon sorbet.
A few, unhurried minutes later, le plat principal:
Filet de bœuf façon Rossini aux cèpes et gratin dauphinois, ((Beef fillet Rossini with porcini mushrooms and potato gratin)) with a fine wine sauce poured at the table, and a glass of merlot de Pomerol.
The flavors are intense and wholesome. The last bite is deliberately slow.
A fleeting sadness, but consolation soon comes:
The sun setting over Paris, a slice of vieux Comté, more Pomerol.
From the golden cart, a moelleux is served à la chartreuse. The spoon cuts through the soft and crunchy entremets. The warm chocolate oozes out and blends into the liqueur.
Each bite is savored leisurely, in silence and with care. Lenôtre is one of those rare places where dessert and solitude are still considered art.
Short and black, the coffee arrives promptly. The bill never does; another honor bestowed only to the finest table in the house.
To dine alone in Paris is to dine alone with Paris. With the stories it inspired, and those that inspired it. Eiffel’s eccentric tower, Haussmann’s avenues, Hugo’s chimneys, Pagnol’s boulangeries. Sisley’s barges along the Seine, Monet’s mist over Notre Dame. The rivaling cafés des Deux Magots and Flore, the Bec-de-Gaz bar. Picasso’s studio, Renoir’s hôtel particulier. The covered galleries, the rooftop gardens, the secret alleyways.
Street musicians and artists, hidden lovers around corners, chain smokers in the sun. In this city, there is no such thing as a party of one.
The gentleman finishes his coffee. A perfect ending to a perfect meal. The food was exquisite, the view was sublime. He folds his napkin and places it on the tablecloth, beside a few bills. He pulls up the collar of his navy blue coat, ready to leave. But waits for the last ray to set, out of respect.


How an ancient council turned lines into borders.

Art is like a border of flowers along the course of civilization.
-Lincoln Steffens

In the beginning, there was a dot. The dot went for a walk, and formed a line. The line evolved, multiplied, diversified. Soon the earth was covered with all types of lines.
Not long after, there came man. Man went for a walk, and formed another man. They too evolved, multiplied, diversified, and soon the earth was filled with all types of men.
Now somewhere along one of these walks, man and line met. This was disconcerting to man, as he had never seen a line. Unsure of what to do with it, or even what it was, he captured and pocketed it, and summoned all the other men of the earth to a grand meeting. Between them all, he hoped, they would define this strange phenomenon and lay the issue to rest.
The historian was the oldest amongst the men, so naturally he went first. He called the line a time line, and tossed it like a fishing net across the others’ memories. He recorded names, ordered events, set precedents, drew parallels. He tied the line into a loop, so it would repeat itself, and tainted it in different shades from different angles and sides.
The merchant glimpsed an opportunity, so he went next. He called the line a trade line, and promptly stretched it over land and sea. He then set off along it, transporting silk and spices, gold and silver, ivory and salt. He carried chessboards in one direction, religious texts the other. Apples West, chocolates East. Exchanged knowledge for sugar, wine for rice, art for oil and coal.
The scientists were less hasty. They needed structure; a definition based on data, methodology. The mathematician placed the line on a graph, a plane, a chart. He then presented it to the others, who recorded precisely what they saw. The astronomer observed a spectral line. The geologist, a fault line. The chemist, a bond line. The physicist, a field line. None could prove the others false; they would need more experiments, more tests, more time.
The artists were experimental too, but of a more spontaneous kind. They got creative with the line, to everyone’s delight. They made it thick, they made it thin. Long, short, straight, and curved. The Romantic’s line was delicate and fine. The Realist’s, accurate and neat. The Impressionist blurred it in a colorful haze, from which the Cubist made it reappear in a jagged, frenzied daze.
The writer unfolded a story line, to the tune of the pianist’s melody line. The comedian delivered a punch line, which the athletes then took for a finish line. Some ran, some swam across it. Jumped over, crawled under it. Swung high above the ground from it, walked deft and precariously along it.
This meeting had turned into great, loud, fun. All the men were clapping and cheering. All the men but one.
The politician awoke grumpy from his nap and frowned as he looked around. The meeting had clearly gotten out of hand. It was time to take it into his own.
He cleared his throat and silence fell as he took the floor. He looked down at the offending line that had cost him his sleep, then around to address his fellow men.
“This line is a dividing one that has spurred enough controversy and debate. As guarantor of mankind’s safety, and to preserve the peace, I hereby declare it a border line and banish it to the edge of the map.”
His advisors nodded in approval. The council agreed. And man immediately set to work, enforcing the party line. The cartographers drew, the engineers designed, the workers built. The following morning, when man awoke, the headlines read:

Dividing Line Now Border Line.

No one really knows just how the devolution of mankind began, but it happened somewhere, sometime along those lines. Man’s own strategy turned on him; falsely accused and put to wrong use, all the lines united and became border lines. Those within them feared those without them, and suddenly everyone was obsessed with crossing them.
Once demarcation turned to separation, nothing, it seemed, could stop the lines gone rogue. History could recall no precedent. Trade could find no route. Science ran out of experiments, and art ran dry. For once, even the politician could find nothing to say. The border lines had turned to enemy lines, front lines, dead lines.
Then something remarkable happened. It took the whole world by surprise. One sunny day, one little child and his brand new box of crayons happened to pass a border line. He stopped to examine it, looked around cheekily, pulled all his crayons out of the box… and colored all over it.


In everyday life, the devil lurks in the details.

Two minutes to five. She sets the tray down on the white tablecloth, and herself, back straight, on the clean white chair in the winter garden for afternoon tea. As she had the day before, the day before that, and the day before that. The table is set, again, for three. For two minutes she waits, for the waltz she now knows well, to begin.
At five o’clock, her husband will enter through the door on the right. Her daughter, through the door on the left. He will sit here, she will sit there. Queue the tea. Cream in the first cup, two lumps of sugar in the second. Neither in hers. She will realize she forgot the lemon in the kitchen. She will contemplate going back for it, decide not to, sip her tea, and wish she had. Then it will be four past five.
‘How was your day?’
The weather, the traffic, a rundown of global affairs. The wars, the famines, the state of the economy, the stocks. A revolution in some country she has not heard of. A cure for some disease she does not understand. Names of far off places she knows she will never see.
What was had for lunch. What will be had for dinner. What will be on TV. Then it will be ten past five.
‘Do you need help with homework?’
‘Would you like some more tea?’
Two cups of tea served; queue the angel cake. As pristine and white as the tablecloth, as vanilla as the day before. And the day before that, and the day before that. Two slices on the first plate, a sliver on the second. Nothing on hers. She will claim, again, that she does not care for cake. And it will be a lie.
‘What time will you be home tomorrow?’
‘Would you like some more cake?’
Another slice, another sliver, will be consumed indifferently. The questions will be answered the same way. As they had the day before, the day before that, and the day before that. Then it will be twenty past five.
Her husband and daughter will walk out, he through the door on the right, she through the door on the left. She will sit a while longer, in the winter garden on the clean white chair, with the three empty teacups, two empty plates, and the half-eaten cake.
The angel cake her mother made, and her mother before that. The cake she grew up eating, every day at five, back straight for forty years. Till grandmother died and mother too, and it was too late to say she did not care for angel cake. Or vanilla, or white, or the well-mannered inertia of her life. Too late for a different recipe; this one was all she knew.
Now she makes angel cakes.
Almost half past five. In a few minutes, she will wipe the crumbs off the white tablecloth, and place the china on the tray. She will head into the kitchen, and throw away the leftover cake. Then she will bake a fresh one, the same one, for afternoon tea at five the following day. But not for a few minutes. Not just yet.
For a few minutes she will slouch into the clean white chair, and daydream of a party, one afternoon years ago, where she had crisp champagne in a crystal flute, and a slice of devil’s cake.
She will close her eyes and remember the deep, dark brown of that slice. Almost oaky, almost black against the fork’s silver shine. The fork’s own flawless slide down the soft, moist layers; one, two, three. The velvet feel of that first bite against her lips, the explosion of bitter cocoa and coffee in her mouth as they dissolve into cream on her tongue. The dense smell, taste of the chocolate, overpowering every sense. The second bite. The third, the fourth. Pleasure in a succession of waves crashing against her palate, flushing her cheeks, her nose, her chest. Destroying any awareness of a present or past beyond it. The vivid realization of fulfillment, the acute ecstasy of being. The heartbreaking discovery of a life beyond white.
Then it will be half past five, and she will open her eyes.

The Animal Cracker Plot

We asked our contributor Yara Zgheib to write about kids, and she sent us a children’s story. At least on first glance.

“Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo.” The little boy smiled. He hummed the familiar tune as he made the light and tumble journey from the East side to the park. It was not raining or cold, “just a fine and fancy ramble to the zoo.” Not that he knew what a fine and fancy ramble was. Or a cross-town bus. He did not understand most of the words in the song, though perhaps, if he concentrated, he could spell them. But of all the songs on the radio, he liked this one best. Because it had animals in it, not many grown-up songs did. Today, it was also the most appropriate; he was off to see his animal friends at the zoo.

The little boy always smiled.

Tigers, giraffes, kangaroos and sheep… All of them loved it when the little boy came to the zoo. They had much to tell him, and tried to listen too. He told them about school. Counting was difficult; he needed more fingers. The elephants sympathized, the monkeys offered toes. The zebras helped him practice, while the hamsters cheered him on. The little boy smiled, he always smiled.
He told them about the playground. The slides were painted yellow, the swings were red and green, but the seesaw was his favorite: blue. He did not ride the seesaw though, for that you needed two people. He put up his two pinkies to emphasize his point. The lion nodded gravely, the other animals understood. And the little boy who always smiled, even in his sleep, forgot to for a while.
Just a short while, for just then the bear’s stomach grumbled. The antelopes scoffed, the cubs giggled. The little boy’s smile returned, cheeky this time. He looked right and left; no zoo keeper in sight. He pulled out some crackers from the pocket of his favorite navy blue coat. Big square crackers that he had snuck from tea. He gave his hungry friend the largest piece. He had enough for all of course; even the plotting pigeons got crumbs. His animal friends loved it when the little boy came to the zoo.
But it was already twilight. His toes and nose were cold. It would soon be time for supper, and he should not be late. There might be waffles and syrup, or cinnamon toast, but he hoped there would be cocoa and crackers; those he loved most. He wished his animal friends would visit. If they did, he would certainly share. The grown ups, he thought, would surely not mind; they never had cocoa anyway, or time to talk to bears.
The boy waved his animal friends goodbye. The zoo, and the city, had gotten dark. Brave as he was, the little boy who always smiled, he was relieved to see the warm light through the kitchen window. He could even hear the kettle whistle.
He had had a nice day, he reminded himself, with all his many friends. And if there were crackers and cocoa for supper, it would be a grand day. He would save some for the animals of course, and tomorrow, again, make the light and tumble journey to the zoo.
But supper was even better than that, the day even grander! The cocoa, as usual, was on the kitchen table, all cream and froth in the boy’s favorite blue cup. But beside it, the crackers! He could not believe his eyes!

Chatting, till sleep caught him off guard.

Instead of the big square crackers, there on the porcelain plate were his animal friends from the zoo! The tigers, giraffes, kangaroos and sheep. The elephants and monkeys, zebras and hamsters. The lion and antelopes, even his friend the bear! They had all come to visit, just as he had wished. What a cunning disguise! An animal cracker plot! So that was what the pigeons had been whispering about.
The little boy gasped and clapped, and though there were grown-ups around, thanked his animal friends anyway. Disguised as they were, the animal crackers could not reply, but they too were all quite pleased.
The little boy had the most marvelous supper, spilling cocoa down his chin for he was smiling ear to ear. Then when the grown-ups were not looking, he slipped the animals in his pocket and took them off to bed. There he chattered away to them till sleep caught them all off guard.
The old man was still smiling when they found him the following day. He looked like he had been dreaming, in his favorite blue pajamas. They would bury him that same bright and sunny day, in the park by the zoo. And everyone would sorely miss him, the smiling old man.
One mystery remained, that the grown-ups would never solve. In the pocket of the old man’s pajamas they found animal shaped crackers. Surprisingly uncrushed, not even stale. Yet they looked sad somewhat. The bear’s head was turned away.

A Place, between Sleep and Awake

About the magic of a fleeting, daily moment.

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
– William Shakespeare, The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158

There is a moment, at night, when darkness has worn itself out and dawn is about to break. When colors are pale and sounds muted and soft. A moment that belongs to poets and painters, and perhaps the birds, for in it even the night watchmen have gone to bed, and not even the bakers have yet left it.
The bed itself is perfectly warm. The covers, perfectly tucked around toes and ears. A pink and timid nose peeks out to face the perfectly crisp air. All other acts of bravado are on hold, in this moment too late for last night, too early for today.
A perfect, fleeting moment. A perfectly fleeting moment. devoid of thought or emotion. Devoid of time itself, it is almost a place. A place “between sleep and awake, where you still remember dreaming.” And beyond which nothing else exists.

Here grief forgets to groan, and love to weep,
Ev’n superstition loses ev’ry fear:
For God, not man, absolves our frailties here.
– Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelaid

It does not last of course; the world begins to fidget. The gardeners and first train drivers, the lunch packing mothers and life hungry toddlers. The surgeons and nurses, the runners and dog walkers. The flight takers, the presentation givers, the coffee brewers and drinkers. Soon enough the moment is gone, “the world forgetting, by the world forgot.” Colors turn bright, noises loud, and we are awake.
“Awake” is not a pleasant state. In it the day unfolds, littered with morning headlines overheard in traffic jams, noon deadlines remembered at one. Predictions are proven failed, decisions are proven wrong in the wear and tear of the day’s responsibilities, disappointments, and by the time the sun sets, its regrets.
Awake is a heavy state. We can only take a day of it at a time.
So out of covers we build fortresses and tents, and out of wooden shoes, ships. Eyes closed, so no one can see us, we sail off “on a river of crystal light,” to that place between sleep and awake.
There, we do not remember what to regret, we do not know yet what to dread. Our guess about how tomorrow, and life, will unfold, is as good as any. We smile, like children, in our sleep.

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.

No parameters, conditions, or rules. No clouds or shadows in spotless minds.
Soon, again, it will be time to wake, and we will face reality. The consequences of past mistakes, the stomach churn of coming winters. But for now let us stay a little longer in this moment devoid of time and emotion, and I will paint you a picture of this place behind closed eyes, between sleep and awake.

There are fields and fields of flowers, […] fields and fields of lilies–and when the soft wind blows over them it wafts the scent of them into the air–and everybody always breathes it, because the soft wind is always blowing. And little children run about in the lily fields and gather armfuls of them, and laugh and make little wreaths. And the streets are shining. And people are never tired, however far they walk.’
Frances Hodgson Burnett

And since we are bound to forget it anyway, in this place let us be who we want to be. Let us be knights and princesses, astronauts and fishermen, explorers and magicians, spies and inventors. Let us have magic powers, let us know how to fly. Make hot cocoa from fountains, animal crackers from clouds. Let us never be hungry, never be cold. Let us be young and happy and in love. Let us be two people holding hands on the couch.
For a perfect, fleeting moment, let us be dreamers, who “can only find their way by moonlight, and their punishment is that they see the dawn before the rest of the world.” ((The original quote by Oscar Wilde reads as follows: ‘For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.’))
Then the world will fidget, and we can try the day again.

‘Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
As if it could not be;
And some folk thought ‘twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea;
Eugene Field, Wynken Blynken and Nod