Yugen (幽玄)

Roughly, the characters for Yugen translate into "mysterious" and "deep".
The push to use your imagination.
“The use of subtlety and allusion to hint at deeper meaning and invite interpretation.”

Let me frame a scene.

There are oceans so vast; vivid colored animals living and slithering inside them. Their world is within those waters. A world outside of that is silly, unheard of. 

Where we occupy, we get options. The mystery deepens. We become those vivid colored animals trapped inside a storm.

We don’t chase, or slow down, or recognize clouds. We take pictures instead. Rarely coming up for air. We move parallel and perpendicular, crawling on all fours, trying to remember our ancestry. Forgetting our gifts, our eyes, our senses. 

Days and weeks go by, sometimes years, and then, we catch a glimpse, a glance of being here. Planted on the ground, spinning centers in space. Small nothingness in a myriad of other nothings. 

To see beyond the four jeweled corners, one reflecting from the other, you must put your feet in dirt, feel the danger of the wind, hum songs. Remembering that what we see when we look from inside our skull, is us looking back. Paints can’t duplicate the colors that center in your eyes at twilight. The moment is yours and you want to weep, and so you do. You’re swimming, you’re free, and have finally caught a glimpse outside that nebulous veil, and your heart rests calmly in your ribcage. 

Yugen isn’t hard to comprehend. Our existence is based on Yugen. Moments in the depths of oneself, where the ether and you twist like old lovers. Solitude pays off its greatest gifts when Yugen is felt. Imagine everything you own, gone to some wildfire, knowing that things and houses are replaceable, that they will rise and resurrect much like the sun and moon. You hold on to that feeling, that moment to keep you running through the mundane of everyday.

Loneliness is a fearless Valkyrie that thrives through Yugen. We become feral, deep in the waters of thought. It comes to find you, craving the tight skin, the pupils expanding to take more of it in. 

Our bodies carry reminders of what it was, of what it is. It craves to look at itself and fall in love. 

Most days, I make it a point to go to my rooftop. There I find that the smells and sounds of the city lose a bit of volume. It’s there that I’ve found my reflection. In summer, 6 a.m. sunrises are buckets of oranges and yellows; lit cigarettes burning out in an ashtray. Clouds like honeycombs bathing in the warmth of the rising sun. It holds us in it’s transcendence, and its light reaches ours. 

Paints can’t duplicate the colors that center in your eyes at twilight. The moment is yours and you want to weep, and so you do. You’re swimming, you’re free, and have finally caught a glimpse outside that nebulous veil, and your heart rests calmly in your ribcage. 

Winter brings cirrus clouds that boom with electric blues and purples, buzzing in their silence. Sometimes, cumulus clouds gather and sink low, tempting our mouths to reach for them.  At night, there are dim lights and the clouds turn to light drizzle. 

Living as we do, so full of distractions and social media, our minds are hardly capable of ease. They’re hardly capable of slowing down and standing ground. Roots don’t sprout as easily, though they’re always there, waiting. 

I remember being very young, perhaps eight or nine years old; it was summertime, and my parents had bought me a pool to enjoy in the backyard. I put it on the grass, filled it up with cold hosewater and sank in it like a womb. On a particular day, not sure of the date or time, as that didn’t matter much, I was filled with a sense of floating. I stuck my head outside the water, belly down and looked at the grass. It was lush and green and no wind interrupted it. My breathing was hollow in my lungs, and I could hear it expand and wilt within them. The grass, in all its quiet, began breathing with me. It moved with me, and suddenly everything began to hum with the same beat. I looked at the profundity of the yard and saw that all the blades of grass were doing it. That was one of the the first instances of what I feel Yugen translates into. 

As children, we accept moments as they come. There are no timelines, no pretense. Everything just is. We accept the mystery of holding back. We ask questions, but don’t necessarily receive all the answers. So we move along and hope that the answers will eventually materialize and harden with time. 

There’s this psychological test that I often ask of friends and strangers when I want to get to know them. 

It’s something like—

1.) You’re in a forest, and there’s a bear... what do you do? (This signifies how we deal with difficult people.)

2.) Now there’s a riverbed, potent with water and you need to cross it, how do you cross it? (How we deal with small obstacles.)

3.) Now there’s a mountain, and you must climb it to get to the other side, what do you do? (How we deal with bigger obstacles.)

4.) Now that you’re on the top of the mountain, what do you see? (What we see as the payoff for struggle.)

That’s where Yugen lives.

In pregnant space.


INGRID CALDERON is a Salvadoran refugee residing in Los Angeles. She's published in Leste MagElectric CerealDrylandSeafom MagAnti-Heroin Chic, Occulum, etc... Her latest poetry book Zenith is published through Editions Du Cygne, a French publisher based out of Paris. Her goal is to be an anonymous voice that cuddles the masses. She wants to be relatable, not unique. Find her on Twitter @BrujaLamatepec.

Photo by Chestina Craig