Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Flickering Lights

The tiny votives flicker in windows as though the flame had real heat, as though these are real flames. However, much to my peace of mind, these are LED lights and their twinkling a kind lie. Today is Diwali again, and a year has passed since last Diwali, when I came home to find my home burned away. For some reason this day has affected me without warning, with more force than I had thought. The day has been uneasy and this unease has not left my side since my dawn dream, in which I didn't want to leave but just hold my child, the cats, my quilt, a doll I had forgotten about, all of them.

Fortunately, I could indulge my unease and stay with my house, puttering around, sweeping up, picking up, so the Goddess might be tempted, that she might step in with gentle feet. The little votives, like hopes, flicker around the colorful rangoli in my porch, in the same place as last year.

This year, my Diwali is quiet, if a little uneasy, and I am grateful for the quiet little lamps who seem reassuring, as they murmur shadows, whisper gleamings, their soft glimmer giggles spill and tinkle around the floor; after all, no Diwali should be silent. I am very grateful for their kind company, as I am grateful for all who have quieted my unease today. One of the many lessons I have learned as someone who lives alone is that all undefined unease must be publicly acknowledged, that one should not be allowed to feel alone when these airs raise the hair on one's nape, when these gulps drop to the bottom of one's stomach.

Usually, I have my child at home for Diwali. Usually, there are sparklers that sketch golden shapes that linger on eyelids after they have melted away. Usually, we get the camera ready and worship a few coins, a special puja to woo the Goddess. Today, I have no sparklers, and yes, I could have gone to the temple, where a welcome is assured, and yes, they'd have sparklers and other fireworks. I could have done the puja on my own. I could have taken pictures of my little rangoli.

However, today, I want to woo my home back to me: the Goddess cannot be wooed without one's own threshold. Last Diwali was unforgettable, loud, big; I want this one to be unmemorable, quiet, contained within my comfort zone.

The festival promises lamps to aid lost footsteps back home, on dark nights when heavenly lights, the sun and moon abandon us earthbound beings for other orbits. This festival reminds us that the lights that can be most relied upon are of this earth; extra terrestrial light sources have their own agenda and may often seem indifferent. The fault, then, lies in our failure to recognize our place in the larger cosmos, not in the orbs that we imagine have abandoned us. This festival reaffirms our kinship with little lamps whose flickering lights accompany us through different nights.

The twinkling lights of my windows and I, all of us wish my patient readers a very Happy Diwali!


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