Epiphanies in the Night

The trees in the Peninsula and South Bay are turning russet. It wasn't too long ago that for a few weeks of Spring, whenever I drove up the hill to my house, the shock of pale pink blossoms sprouting from lush stalks stunned me. Now, the nights are becoming crisp, the early post-dawn hours of the morning harbor a heavy chill - these are the harbingers of Fall.

We leave our windows open at night. The curtains billow and ballet in the breeze. As I drift off to sleep in the soft yellow light seeping in from the street, I often marvel at how the air smells of the coming Fall, readying to absorb the cold before it descends upon us. During the night, I wake up to cover Jahan with a blanket. She is over curled up, sleeping crouched on all fours. It's the cold air that makes her close in on herself like that, I say to myself. Sometimes, I leave the room and go outside for a drink of water. In the kitchen, the grey-green marble tiles send a chill up my spine. I shiver as I look outside the kitchen window, past the orchids and the basil and the rose on the window sill, at the shining city. On clear nights such as these, sometimes I can see past the city all the way to the hills. During the day, they seem closer to the house, greenish-brown and overbearing, but in a protective sort of way. But at night, the hills are only dark shadows, brooding and distant. I am warm inside my kitchen, despite the cold floor. This house with toys that squeak in their baskets, over-sized cushions in the living room, fleece throws on the sofa, a gleaming kettle sitting silently on the stove, is like a chicken roosting. 

On these nights, standing in my kitchen, sipping water and watching this city I have come to love in spite of my firm notion that I would never again love a city after Lahore, I am filled with a sense of awe and wonder. It is a strangely uplifting kind of feeling, having an almost exhilarating effect. Maybe it is the beauty of the half-asleep city, lit up like someone sprawled strings of Christmas lights haphazardly all over it. Maybe it is the solitude in the middle of the night, no sound but the low hum of appliances barely discernible, a full day gone, and a full day ahead, but this moment all mine, away from humdrum tasks, removed from noises and distractions and people, with only the profound sense of being alive and on a path of self-actualization, which many are not destined to have. It is a sacred moment of acceptance and recognition and wonder and gratefulness. 

When Winter comes, this moment will morph into something different. The city will still shine, but under a thick blanket of fog. When I stare outside the window, I will see clumps of cottony fog drifting against it. There will be rain and the Italian Cypress might collide with the window because of the fierce winds. The silence might be broken by the dull, blunt noise of the tree hitting the house. But the moment will still be sacred, all mine, celebrated. I will watch the city - a large single-layer cake frosted liberally with fog, the steaming chimney of my neighbor's house, the tree swaying dangerously in the wind, and I will marvel at all of this with nothing around me but a meditative silence. Give thanks, I will tell myself. And, uncharacteristically, I will listen.