Second Cycle

It is nearing the end of the lunar year and nearing the beginning of my second cycle. I was born at the end of the lunar year of the tiger, at the beginning of the solar year leading into the year of the rabbit, straddling two identities but not fully belonging to either. Stubborn and fiercely independent, shy and terribly insecure. And while I do not actually believe in the Chinese zodiac, the cycle does seem to bring me back to this point of examination. It has been four years of us, one and a half years of marriage, ten months since moving to San Diego. The change was welcome; it was liberating, but as we continue to march along in these pits worn down by our own repeated motion, the novelty has worn off. Familiarity is no comfort when there is no progress.

I feel as if drifting on water, each foot in a boat, unable to move in any one direction or to reconcile either the different aspects of my character or my goals with my life. We have reversed. He has work now, though repetitive and more and more unfulfilling. I have…a small, empty, but cluttered apartment and neatly organised folder after folder of companies to whom I have submitted cover letters and résumés. And each of us, going, separate, around and around in circles such that we see and pass one another but rarely meet.

And so I return to the tango, Piazzolla’s Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night and the music weaving the stories of the mythical “old Buenos Aires” of Jorge Luis Borges. I long for the abrazo (embrace) in life, the connection that will break us out of our own orbits and send us hurtling into one another. I crave that intimate and wordless exchange on the dance floor that no one but we can feel, and that others, if they watch, can sense radiating from us but only guess at what was said. We had that connection, taking ballroom in college and laughing at our own mistakes and missteps. We understood, when spending several silent hours wrapped up in blankets on the beach during a meteor shower, when working together on boats over the summer in Oxnard, when preparing and enjoying food together, when experiencing a beautiful Santa Barbara day hiking up to Gibraltar Rd. So as the motions become repetitive, the connection grows weak, my words become uninspired, my days grow shorter, and my nights turn sleepless, I drift back. In the hazy edges of my late night, early morning [semi-]consciousness, the embrace of my memories becomes closer and more real.

The Cyclical Night

They knew it, the fervent pupils of Pythagoras:
that stars and men revolve in a cycle;
the fateful atoms will bring back the vital
gold Aphrodite, Thebans and agoras.

In future epochs, the centaur will oppress
with solid, uncleft hoof the breast of the Lapith;
when Rome is dust, the Minotaur will groan
once more in the endless dark of its stinking palace.

Every sleepless night will come back in minute
detail. This writing hand will be born from the same
womb; and bitter armies will contrive their doom.
(The philologist Nietzsche made this very point.)

I do not know if we will recur in a second
cycle, like numbers in a repeating fraction;
but I know that a vague Pythagorean rotation
night after night leaves me on some ground

in the suburbs of the world. A remote spot
which might be either north or east or south,
but always with these things – a crumbled path,
a miraculous wall, a fig tree giving shade.

This, here, is Buenos Aires. Time which brings
to men either love or money, now leaves to me
no more than this withered rose, this empty tracery
of streets with names from the past recurring

out of my blood: Laprida, Cabrera, Soler, Suárez…
names in which secret bugle calls are sounding,
the republics, the horses and the mornings,
glorious victories and dead soldiers.

Ruined squares at night with no one there
are the vast patios of a crumbled palaces,
and the single-minded streets implying Spaces.
They are corridors out of dreams and nameless fear.

It returns, the concave dark of Anaxagoras;
in my human flesh, eternity keeps recurring,
and an endless poem, remembered or still in the writing…
“They knew it, the fervent pupils of Pythagoras…”

– Jorge Luis Borges (emphasis mine), translated by Alastair Reid

So, again, despite the hundreds of pieces I could be playing, when my fingers touch those keys, I return to Milonga para tres (Milonga for Three) and imagine the deep, yearning, nostalgic lament of the bandoneón. Even though my fingers are poor imitators of the instruments, I can each distinct voice weaving their own stories into the piece. The bandoneón, the old man recounting a story he has told countless times, no longer sorrowful but simply reflecting on times past. The violin, rhythmic, speaking with the drama of youth, the events fresh on his mind. The piano as the repeating base line, the bartender who listens, sets the tone, and says just enough to keep the conversation moving.

Where am I going? Several years ago, I wrote of spiritual dryness. What I had thought to be a few days or weeks of feeling purposeless turned into two years in the desert, but it was in the desert that I learned what it meant to need and thirst for Him and be quenched. And as I walk through the desert again, the landscape is familiar but different, seen through a perspective of a few years of change. “Be still, and know that I am God,” He reminds me. I have not found peace in continuous motion, but in stillness, even the seemingly endless landscape of the desert contains differentiating details, and even the most basic of truths become deeper upon closer examination. What are you trying to teach me, Lord? I am waiting for His still small voice to speak to me, as He did to Elijah. If this dialectic does, in fact, progress as history, then perhaps this cycle is just the beginning of another round of growing to understanding His purpose and perfection. I can only hope that in the eventual synthesis, I will closer reflect Him.

Remember your Creatorin the days of your youth,before the days of trouble comeand the years approach when you will say,“I find no pleasure in them” –before the sun and the lightand the moon and the stars grow dark,and the clouds return after the rain;when the keepers of the house tremble,and the strong men stoop,when the grinders cease because they are few,and those looking through the windows grow dim;when the doors to the street are closedand the sound of grinding fades;when men rise up at the sound of birds,but all their songs grow faint;when men are afraid of heightsand of dangers in the streets;when the almond tree blossomsand the grasshopper drags himself alongand desire no longer is stirred.Then man goes to his eternal homeand mourners go about the streets.

– Ecclesiastes 12:1-5

Theophila