13 May Pondering the Moon from an Alleyway in Lisbon
Two black socks hang from plastic clips above the Travessa da Cruz do Torel, an alleyway in Lisbon. I cut through the Jardim do Torel on the way to my favorite park. Yet I’ve never been this way, turning right instead of left when exiting the garden.
I lean upon the golden wall, taking in the details of the surroundings. Slanting shadows carry shade and slice the buildings into softer, darker tones.
High above the buildings, above the wire and the socks, sits the pale, subdued moon. I can’t fathom what it is — what it physically is — dust, rock, an assortment of matter. What I see, perhaps, isn’t dust drifting into darkness; I see something like a stone, patiently waiting to shine.
I can conceptualize a stone. When I look into the sky, it’s like a rock beneath a moving river; is that not what it is?
Later it’ll change, morph into a sphere of light, glistening from afar.
Its emergence means that night is falling, and that feels good. I feel the change of weather, the chilling of the breeze.
Its occurrence is a guide, a reminder, a sanctuary of hope — that darkness won’t befall completely; there will always be the moon.
Plants twist away from their constraining balconies and lean above the Travessa da Cruz do Torel. The name of this area comes from Judge Cunha Thorel, a landowner who gave the land to the Lisbon City Council in 1928.
We navigate the streets with names of those who came before. That’s how we’re remembered, at least to those who never knew us — I know Thorel by the ground below my feet and the panoramic view of Lisbon, seen from a tucked-away garden.
Yet we won’t all have gardens named for us, nor streets or alleyways or buildings.
We exist as part of earth; we exist, perhaps no longer physically, but in the memory, in the thought, in the hanging flower petal that evokes an emotion from the passerby.
Meaning, perhaps, isn’t in the thing itself, but in our perception of it. I didn’t know Judge Cunha Thorel; I don’t know the sound of his laughter nor the weight of his silence.
But I have this — a moment, a realization, an experience of wandering that’s changed me.
Maybe he’s the road; maybe he’s the flower; maybe he’s the left black sock that hangs above an alley with his name. It seems natural in a way that this is what becomes of us — we return to the earth beneath our feet, which give way to future exploration.
The clips that hold the socks are green and red, the colors of the Portuguese flag.
The colors — portrayed by two insignificant clips — stand for something greater. When associated with the flag of Portugal, green represents hope for the future. Red, the blood sacrificed for the nation.
The breadth of life which connects these seemingly dissimilar ideas — the clips and the flag of Portugal, which itself symbolizes so much more than what it seems — is boundless. What can we do with that life? What can we create with it? What is there to learn from two black socks?
That’s the wonder of life, the magic. Meaning isn’t in the thing itself, not the space steeped in words which leave our lips and travel. Meaning comes from what they represent to each of us.
The word love doesn’t shatter with emotional charge; the human being does who says it, who looks into their little dog’s eyes and says I love you, Cheeto.
The dog doesn’t know the word love — but it feels the message.
Perhaps that’s what happens when I see the green and red clips. They aren’t just clips. They’re the details that remind me where I am, who I am, what I am. They make me stop, look into the sky and say holy shit, I’m in Portugal. I’m alive. This world is wild.
Life is what we make of it. Meaning is what we make of it.
There’s meaning all around us, nestled in the garden, hanging from a wire, beneath each dusty stone which takes you somewhere new.
I wonder if they see us, whatever life’s up there. The music that we make, the socks that we hang, the life that we create from nothing. What might they think? It doesn’t make sense, how all of this exists.
Perhaps the meaning derived from each fleeting moment is more real than reality itself. Perhaps life really is what we make of it — and that makes the action real.
Earth, each grain of sand, each dangling sock, each key that opens crooked doors nestled in back alleyways; — isn’t that a thought, that we’ll one day become the earth that the moon looks upon and smiles; we’ll be the keys and the doors that they open.