100 days of solitude: Day 71
by Daphne Kapsali
I didn’t feel like skipping today. No: today I found enlightenment, and I danced on the street. Right in the middle of the main road, halfway between Apollonia and Kamares, I danced to the Ramones. And I felt only a little embarrassed when a car came round the bend and caught me at it. I gave the driver a sheepish look and a nod and carried on dancing until the song was over. He probably thought I was crazy. But what’s crazy is not dancing on the street. This is what I learned today.
It was a day of cloudy sunshine and I decided to walk to the beach. I haven’t done it for a while. I had no ambition to get into the water, only to walk, and think, and then sit on the sand and look at the sea. So I set off with trainers on my feet and music in my ears and I walked.
It never gets old, this journey. There’s always something new to see, and a new train of thought that you can ride in your mind while your feet follow the curve of the road, round and round through the mountains, through patches of shade and patches of light, until something inside you gives a little shudder and releases, and you’re free. Until something bursts open and you dance on the street, and that’s when you learn how crazy it is that you’d never done this before.
This enlightenment that’s on everyone lips these days, that people seek in theories and books, in yoga studios and silent retreats, in deprivation and denial and dogma: it isn’t there. It’s in having the freedom to walk to the beach in the middle of the day, and the clarity to see it for what it is. I found enlightenment on the road between Apollonia and Kamares, and it was easy, and it didn’t cost me a thing. And meditation? Meditation is looking at the mountains. It’s walking for the sake of walking. Meditation is not getting rid of all thoughts; it’s making space for the ones that matter. It’s listening to the waves on an empty beach. It’s rolling around in the sand, not sitting still and straight backed with your eyes closed, because the stillness you need is inside. And it can’t be so fragile that you’re too scared to move, too scared to open your eyes in case you chase it away.
Somewhere between dancing and arriving at the beach, I saw a dead cat in the grass on the side of the road. Killed by a car. There was no blood on it, no obvious marks of death: it looked exactly like a cat lying in the grass but I knew instantly, even from a distance, that this was a lifeless thing, fur and bones and nothing else. The cat inside was long gone, chasing crickets amidst rows of purple cabbages in the valley below. I wanted to look away; I didn’t want my joy tainted by tragedy, I didn’t want to carry the burden of a dead cat on my walk. I wanted to turn away from the sadness and pretend I hadn’t seen it, but I didn’t. I forced myself to look for as long as I could stand it, because happiness isn’t about ignorance or oblivion or turning your face away; happiness, I think, is what survives the tragedies. It exists alongside the sadness, not despite it. And death only happens because we are alive. So I looked at the lifeless thing in the grass; there was a fly buzzing over it in circles, but it wasn’t as morbid as I’d feared. I said a few words in my head for the cat that had once been inside, and carried on walking. I took nothing with me, no burden of death, but the cat that had lived bounded up behind me for a while, before leaping over the safety railings and disappearing in the fields.
But ignorance is bliss, and sometimes you walk past a dead cat and someone says ‘Don’t look’. And you stiffen up and pick up your pace and keep your eyes resolutely ahead, but it’s pointless because you know exactly what’s there, you have the picture in your head, and you’re carrying it with you as you walk away. But if you were to look, you’d only see a dead cat. When you look, it’s no worse than you imagine. You might see it, but you don’t have to take it with you. You can choose what you carry, and what you leave behind. We’re capable of so much more happiness than we know.
Today I found enlightenment on the road between Apollonia and Kamares, and it didn’t look like much. It looked like orchards and cabbage fields and rock faces covered in moss. It looked like a cat killed by a car. It looked like a girl walking to the beach, a girl dancing in the middle of the road. It looked a little crazy. It felt like freedom, and joy. And that was all. That was the grand revelation that you won’t find in books or silence or discipline. It doesn’t sound like much but if you listen carefully, you’ll always hear a song that makes you want to dance.
Dancing on the street’s not crazy. What’s crazy is trying to capture freedom with rules, and how we make our lives so small that there’s no room for dancing. That we’re too scared to look, too scared to move, that we have so little faith in joy that we stifle it with stillness. We are capable of so much more joy than we know, and we kill it with fear and stillness. I mean, fuck: when you suddenly find yourself dancing in the middle of the road, how can you ever go back to sitting stiff and straight backed with your eyes closed, summoning a revelation that you’ve already had?
We are alive, but that isn’t a condition that defines how we live. You can be a cat lying in the grass or a lifeless thing on the side of the road; from a distance, they look exactly the same. You can get up and leap over the safety railings and run through the fields and roll around on the ground, or you can lie there, stiff and still, and wait for the flies to come. What’s crazy is how often we choose the latter.
This is an excerpt from 100 days of solitude by Daphne Kapsali. Available on Amazon, in paperback and on Kindle.