You’ve known it too, I’m sure. Maybe you’ve been passing by a winter city park at night, looking for stars and answers to inexpressible questions, longing for something you can’t even name, regretting things you can’t put your finger on having ever done. Instead you find solace staring at frosty halos surrounding streetlights. Or you would if you noticed them but you notice more that the park is deserted. It’s quiet and peaceful but stark. It would almost be satisfying— it matches that numb and nameless whatever it is you’ve got blacking out your vision. So you’re bereft and alone. And cold.
Or maybe you’ve been sitting on porches, on any number of sleepless spring and summer nights, again looking at skies you don’t actually see: looking for meaning, waiting for something that will never come, but might. And maybe, sighing – of course you are occasionally sighing – you wrap a blanket around you, summer night be damned, because you need to be covered against a chill that is less temperature than temperament. And you don’t know why or how long you’ve been sitting there. But there it is, that sky you’re not seeing, that mild desperation that can’t be expressed in prose and generally doesn’t show up when you’re trying to actually live your daily life. It’s a phenomenon that in the moment is miserable, interminable. It lives in the corners of your life, leaking out when least expected, something you have to shake yourself out of. A dark daydreaming, a wistful and wretched form of wool-gathering. Winter.
Nostalgia, but not. Sadness, but not. Wistful, but not. Rueful, regretful, bereft, forlorn, lost, searching, hopeful, longing — but not. It’s contradictory and elusive, difficult to describe: you sit immobile but with a restless, electric energy; you’re practically divorced from your physical body, seeing with eyes that register nearly nothing. It can barely find expression in words, let alone mundane prose or ordinary life. And yet, all things in moderation, despite the need for these moments to end when you’re in them, I’ve come to believe these moments are a beautiful poignancy, a necessary melancholy. Without them, life would be less rich, less meaningful. Your mind would be less flexible, your compassion a brittle and unused, ugly thing. You would be less tender. Less alive.
It’s a wry and funny thing: these bittersweet and painful, searching, formless moments you sometimes fall into eventually become moments to be themselves missed in other, future nameless melancholy and thoughtless, lost hours. We need them. They feed and repair us. We can’t quantify or define them, or at least maybe not with any precision. We wish they would end. But it’s good, at times, to be kept in a cool and dry place. It preserves the best of us.
We’re perishable. Keep cold.