White Swans

There is a difference between melancholy and sadness. I myself have always thought that melancholy at least has hope, since the latter cannot possibly be as rewarding without the presence of the former. When we are melancholic, we hope for things to come—new joys and memories and we hope for white-blissful, albeit ephemeral, moments.

I walked through the cobblestone streets of Tallinn, surrounded by ancient buildings and the smell of sweet coffee. Climbing up to the highest point in the city, I looked into the distance: the dark-blue ocean and white, graceful swans merging with the waves’ white-caps and the red rooftops gleamed in the dusk, and ships stood floating on the bay. The breeze smelled fresh, and that was hope.

Shielding my eyes from the Autumnal sun, I continued, guided by the midday breeze, along the path of fallen, golden leaves and whispering trees, a clean blue sky, and fresh green field that stretched even beyond the horizon and toward infinity. My heart floated and I found what I had been looking for—I’d met my blissful, ephemeral moment. It’s hope for it’s own sake; childhood memories rained down with the breeze and autumn leaves, suddenly giving me a picture of what my hopes were once like as a child. I’d forgotten them, but in that park on that particular day, I found them again.The park

On the way back, beyond the car window, I saw the stretch of ocean running past me at high speeds and I passed the forest of tall pine trees with dirt paths leading up to the dark sea. And when I realized that that moment was not permanent, I found melancholy. Melancholy is what happens when we fail to catch bliss—perhaps we try to hold it, capture it permanently…though the more we try, the less successful we are.

And even sadness distances us from that possibility of bliss. We are melancholic when we look out into the summer rains or into the Autumn dusks—remembering what we once had, yet knowing that at some point, it will return…even when we ourselves don’t know how or when. Sadness isn’t that…it’s having lost hope that bliss will even return.

This is why, when I look at Russia, I find that I cannot connect with her. She is a suffering, sad nation, not a melancholic one. It is a nation that has lost its ability to hope. There is no hope here, and thus the fallen leaves of Autumn are not as bright, the white swans cannot visit, and the midday breeze is never as gentle.

Friday night, July 2006. I’d met Philip that night—we went on our first date and the ocean crashed against the seawall at the Marina and the skyscrapers piled high and glimmered in the distance against the velvet sky. He reached for my hand across the restaurant table, past the bottle of Pellegrino, “What do you want to do now?” I saw his blue eyes and tanned skin. I smiled, “Walk the Marina?” and so we went out into the honey-warm summer night, holding hands. I felt his hands around my waist and when he pulled me in closer to kiss, when I felt his lean arms and chest I hoped that one day, I’d marry him. That’s my husband, I thought.

And oftentimes, when we look out into the dark distance with glass or book in hand, at the cold streets or warm sunset or dancing trees, we are melancholic and hopeful. These moments though, are filled with knowing—that there will once more be bliss and that we’ll stand against the thick air of the velvet night with the cold starlight moving through our limbs like slow currents of happiness.

I ran up to the shore, facing the midday sun and I felt the coarse sand under my feet. I closed my eyes, breathed in deeply and smiled as I saw the wild swans in the ocean. I stood at the end of the The Pierpier—shirt soaked and smiling at the infinite distance of hope and sun. I picked up two stones that day to remind me of the swans and of the ocean and the breeze—of freedom. Those two stones are melancholy.

aeka at 11:01 a.m.