10 May Impressions of a City, Changing In the Evening Light
Lisbon, I’ll miss you greatly when I leave. This feeling overwhelms me as I climb the road beneath the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara.
It’s the early evening; the air is warm and the shade is soft. This time of day contains what we did, where we’ve been, who we have become. Night falls and our hearts open, perhaps because we can’t understand what it means to watch the world turn.
All we can do is marvel at the setting sun, appreciate its beauty, welcome that the day is done. Perhaps we tried; maybe we failed. But at least we got the chance to live. We often take that chance for granted — salvation comes from darkness.
Dreams enacted not by day, but from the comfort of our pillow.
I sit at the top of the staircase which leads to a portion of the Galeria de Arte Urbana. The slow creaking of the trolley comes from below, as well as the sound of birds which sing to make their presence known.
The Rua da Misericórdia is busy; the sounds of the city ebb and flow with visitors and locals who roam its hills.
The city quiets off the main road — narrow alleyways lead to open squares which rest behind the street’s colorful buildings. That’s the wonder of a city; each is full of secrets.
If nothing else, I made it here. I made it to this ancient place. I’ve called it home and it’s forever changed me, the way a painting does without a definition, or a book not based on truth, or a human being who—wandering their own reality — makes you see life differently.
My soul’s been waiting for this moment. Yet, a moment that opens up our eyes can’t be prepared for. I hear the sound of the bell tolling on the hour to tell us that our lives are moving forward.
We’re expected to plan, to direct, to aspire; life is moving somewhere. We’re human, and we need a direction in which to move.
But for what purpose? What is it we hope will arise from that direction?
Perhaps only the heart knows what it seeks. And listening, moving to its rhythm — that’s an act of love, which I believe is at the core of what we’re truly after.
If you find what makes you happy, do it. This world needs people doing what makes them happy. Seeing someone living with a smile on their face — with life in their eyes — it changes everything.
It changes me when I see musicians playing, artists painting, those that have found that thing which gives them life, give it in return.
Helping another human heart beat for one more day may be what gives you life. It might be carrying your kid as they rest upon your shoulder.
Feeling the warm wind blow, nestling into the grainy sand beneath your feet, or opposing the force of the sea. Sometimes that’s all it takes to feel alive.
That makes me stop and think and smile too; it means we hold the key to the mystery of the universe, which may be nothing more than recognizing that it’s indeed a mystery — a beautiful one that was never meant to be solved.
Now the world is changing; we’re feeling this.
Tears come to my eyes not of my own doing, but of life, looking for escape. Like rain from drifting clouds, like words from a beating heart which needs to say you’re beautiful. The mind wrestles with itself; it can’t bring the soul to do it. And that longing kills us.
To say what’s buried deep. To make that change, take that chance, to climb that fucking hill after days of feeling beaten.
This feeling — that the world can be so beautiful — it wants to burst from my chest. No matter what, if we can return to this simple fact, things will be okay.
It’s not the artwork, the book, the castle which is beautiful. It’s the path that you are on.
The path is beautiful because you’re on it.
'When a beautiful rose dies,' said the abstract painter Agnes Martin, 'beauty does not die because it is not really in the rose. Beauty is in the awareness of the mind.'
We exist in this world of endless beauty, light, love.
But the meaning derived from each moment changes based on the experience of life that we’re having. You may see the sun set over the same mountain hundreds of times, and one night it means nothing.
The next, it makes you feel alive for the first time in a long time. Alive; what does it mean to be alive.
What I return to, what helps me simplify, what brings tears to my eyes is the notion that we’re here to embrace this beautiful mystery.
The Castelo de São Jorge rests on the other side of the city, perched atop a rolling hill that’s staved off invaders for over a thousand years.
The green and red Portuguese flag flutters in the wind against the pale blue sky. The castle glows in the evening light, shifting by the minute.
How, I wonder, can I look upon that hill and see this ancient building change? I can’t fathom how long it’s stood; what those stones have seen, blood spilled and pouring rain, scorching heat upon a city reborn, time, after time, after time.
The hillside buildings rise below the castle, their vivid colors prominent and varied. It’s not just walls I see, but beauty staring back at me, ever-changing, shifting with the daylight, a feeling that I carry, the feeling that is love.
Why love. Because love is what we feel when we don’t know what to say. When what’s simple makes us smile, the simplest thing, the color of a building at a certain time of day.
One day soon I’ll leave this place. I’ll think about moments like these, when I had the luxury to stop and look around. Yet I get caught up in my worries, my fears — like perhaps I’m not doing enough with the time and the opportunities which surround me.
Is it enough to watch the castle changing in the light? Is it enough to appreciate its beauty, seeking nothing more?
Is it enough just to be alive, to everyday find meaning from cherishing that fact.
Why do we believe in something?
Be it god, the universe, or nothing at all. Perhaps we’re here for no particular reason — yet still, we’re here — to be human is to grapple with that fact.
We believe, I believe, because I simply can’t explain.
I can’t explain why I feel this way, why at times I feel so lost; why I do the things I do. Yet my heart pulls like gravity. This force of nature tells me to.
I fear I’ll never make it where I hope to go. I’m afraid that I’ll one day have to give it up, the wandering and seeking; we’re expected to one day find, and if we don’t, we feel outcast in a world in which everybody’s lost.
We might believe in something because we need something to believe in. Life bears down on all of us — the expectations, the striving for perfection, the need to do, to make, to be.
But what if that meant nothing. What if we are here just to spend our time on earth. To reveal the depths that make us human; to embrace and even cherish those depths.
We never know self-realization.
We are two abysses — a well staring at the sky.
Is it possible to fully appreciate the moment when we’re in it? Or must we be removed and thinking back? When you do, you think with the perspective of a different you, one that’s changed, left that place and grown.
You think back on that time and what it may have meant, perhaps with a fondness, a smile, a laugh. We’re always looking back at where we were, who we were, and wonder if we’ve truly changed. The world around us has changed; the environment, that is. But the experience of life remains.
Yet, we’re somewhere new.
And it’s hard to fathom where we are with the same questions, the same concerns and worries — how time came and went so quickly and we hardly watched it go.
To heed the present moment isn’t a great or lasting concern of mine. I crave time in all its duration, and I want to be myself unconditionally.
Is it wrong to think fondly of the past with regret for not living in the moment we were in? We felt something while we were there; the feeling that I’m feeling now, putting down these words — they’re just as real as the feelings felt while in that moment.
Can the present shape the past?
What’s real is what we perceive, what we take with us, how our reality is built upon our perception of what was.
I’m here. I hope to cherish where I am — the beauty of the evening sky, the laughter of the people, the smell of the golden sun reflecting off the pavement.
We carry with us that color, that light, that life reborn, no matter where we go. Nothing’s lost, not time, not love, not words unsaid — if only to live in our memories.