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Essais by H: Sliding Doors



The time had been set the night before; 6am. This was the time I would arise and start my tustle, or delicately orchestrated showdown, with the day. I woke to the lulling rhythm of Agnes Obel’s September Song and contemplated how much I would savour another unit of time in bed. I considered knocking on sleep’s door and asking for more, sir. This was my short-lived, thoroughly underwhelming version of Jacob’s wrestling with god. Enough, I thought, out of bed I got out, descending my little ladder (no relation to Jacob’s ladder, but I can see the unintended pun here) to the rest of the flat.

As is my habit, my eyes flitted over to the French doors that look out on to a quaint piece of terrace, and a perfectly rectangular allotment of sky above; my flat is lower ground, so I am perennially gazing heavenward… This morning there was something different. I know the times of day, you see, that prosper best in the flat for catching the full beam of the sun, or seizing that last dusky hue of the day’s end. Spilt across my floor, flooding half of my desk and enflaming a pile of books that were resting just so, was a stark white light. It wasn’t the familiar yellow of my neighbour’s home, although that chap does keep some strange hours. White, pulsing, unflinching, it was the moon shining down, in the midst of its waning, having pulled apart the clouds for a last hurrah. Although I had woken to greet the morning, I had somehow entered into a parallel universe where Time had hit snooze. My conventional clock told me a new day had started, and yet here was the night still, brandishing its great jewel. What could I do but marvel at this unexpected visitor. No poetic dawn for me just yet. I stood still in the moonlight, a smile and chuckle on my lips. I was tickled you see, for only three days earlier I had set my alarm to 4.50am, in pursuit of the terrific sounding ‘blood moon’.

*

Not until another two years would a lunar eclipse be sighted, where the moon would appear as a mummified version of itself, swollen in size, and red in hue. On the said morning, snoozing was not an option; Agnes came to wake me and I was ready. Out I went, first on foot, in hot pursuit. I naively assumed that it would be fairly easy to spot, given its scale and colouring. But alas not only was the sky slightly clouded, my neighbourhood's elegantly clustered buildings conspired to screen the sight from me. Next I summoned my stead. Up and across, down and along, my car wound me along London streets. Checking the position of the moon on a star-gazing app I have, and following by eye the reddish hue I could see in the sky, I chased but was thwarted at each turn. Sometimes I felt like I was getting closer, but in fact the only thing I was getting closer to was clocking up nearly 32,000 miles on my mileage counter (not in one go, mind you!). I even joined the Westway fly-over, leaving London, to try and get an expansive view of the sky-scape, but the moon was nowhere to be seen. There was nothing else for it, I had to shutter my orbit of West London. Even nature can feel a little self-conscious when stalked so assiduously by some London dwelling yuppie, with a track record of killing cacti.

Home I came, not quite defeated, but utterly aware that by an external observer, my actions could be considered rather bizarre. That thought at least consoled me - let me be rum and the richer for it, albeit slightly sleep deprived. The moon had eluded me. The rest of the day unfurled itself. Intermittently, my mind would steal back to my clumsy lunar attempt, and a touch of disappointment would elbow me in the back. I pined even, at the thought of the moon waning and slowly diminishing, its stony dregs whimpering down a cosmic plughole. Perhaps I should stick to observing the moon's phases from the standardised drawings in my diary.

*

But alas, a few days later, without my looking, there it was. It wasn’t red. It wasn’t huge. But it was there. I hadn’t taken a step outside of my flat, there was no pavement pounding and no car indicators a-tick-tocking. I had been searching for one marvel, but another one came to me quite unexpectedly. The morning’s silence schooled me in humility. The moment brought to mind some reading I had done earlier in the week, specifically Kenko’s musings. In one instance, he writes about man’s craving for very specific, transcendent moments: a full moon (I’m not doctoring this, I promise), April blossom in full swing, a tree in bloom; but he asks why the moments around these cannot be equally treasured. Even if one cannot see the moon, one can still think on it and imagine it's mineral beauty; the blossom still in bud is just as special for it is on the brink of something marvellous. When all is said and done, these too have a definite elegance and grandeur worthy of the main spectacle.

So there it was. My lesson for the week, staged by nature, mediated by Kenko and composed beautifully by a piece of rock frolicking around the earth at 2,288 miles per hour.


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