Letter to My Mother, from Bucharest
February 19, 2019
Just wanted to let you know I’ll be moving to a new town in Romania. It’s Called Cluj-Napoca. It’s the historic capital of Transylvania. I’ll be staying at a hostel in the city center. The town itself is known for being the cultural and intellectual center of Romania. There’s a large population of artists, musicians, poets, philosophers, etc. I’m really excited to rub elbows with some of these people and get inspired again by big thinkers.
Bucharest has been fun, but, to be honest, it’s been a battle for me. I’ve struggled with demons on a very regular basis. The fight has led into a dark place. A labyrinth of communist block-lined streets. Of old city clubs and sweaty dancing bodies. Bodies I have squeezed and pushed my way through. Winding cobbles leading to orthodox churches tagged in pink and green graffiti. Scarred cats have sat down before me some nights; they have offered bad advice and somethings that are forbidden. Girls have taken me down streets that somehow curved back upon themselves, leaving me alone again in the same vacant plazas and squares under the very same electric lights where I had already been. Until, finally, I came to the absolute center of the darkness. But from that winter, in the concrete and steel of my heart, I’ve taken a boon; it offers me a new power. As David Whyte says,
Sometimes it takes the darkness and the sweet
confines of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
I’ve followed the logical compliment of this claim to its very conclusion here. I’ve spent time with addicts and criminals, thieves and drunks. In a way, these months have diminished me into nothingness. This place has turned me into a derelict, windows shattered, electricity cut. And it seems that this may have been the only possible experience to bring forth the evidence I’ve needed to accept the truth in Whyte’s words. A truth that is echoed in the words of Ranier Maria Rilke,
…In the silent, sometimes hardly moving times
when something is coming near,
I want to be with those who know
secret things or else alone.
I want to unfold.
I don’t want to be folded anywhere,
because where I am folded,
there I am a lie.
I’ve been pushing right up against the folds and convolutions of my internal geography. It’s led to the dangerous streets that I have avoided for too long. To know my own will is to know the places that are safe in the light and also, of course, the mean alleys and deserted parks that seem unsafe at night.
Don’t worry about me. As Oedipus said, ‘All is well.’ All truly is well, mom. I’m stronger than ever, though of course, recovering from it all. And there is the yin and the yang. That the only path to rebirth is, astonishingly, death.
Today the temperatures have risen and the air is polished blue. The spring seems to have arrived. So it feels just right that tomorrow I’ll be someplace new. It already feels like I am.