In a relatively recent email to a reader of the Cafe I had tried to describe how I imagined this place.
I had pictured a vast garden with forested hills, running water and placid ponds, with all manner of bird, animal and insect going about their business enclosed by a stone wall with many gates large and small. From outside one could see paths, some well trodden and others hardly discernible wending off from the gates and disappearing into the distance.
One gateway through the wall was small and evidently seldom used. Beside it were a pair of well stocked book shelves. It was so seldom used there didn’t appear to be a pathway from it towards the further depths of the garden.
This largely ignored doorway, I wrote, is how I imagine the Omphalos Cafe.
I write this sipping coffee in a Burlington, Ontario, Starbucks. Two doors down is a used bookstore called The Book Nook. Before Starbucks I had spent a pleasant half hour in The Book Nook and left with four smallish paperbacks: Andre Gide’s ‘The Immoralist,’ H. Rider Haggard’s ‘She,’ Erich Maria Remarque’s ‘Flotsam,’ and Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night.’
Sitting down with my coffee I elected to begin reading Wiesel’s unbelievably harrowing ‘Night.’
At the outset, before being carted off to the fiery hell of a concentration camp, he describes his thirteen year old immersion in the profound teachings of his Jewish heritage and the words of a respected if waifish figure.
Listen to how he put it:
‘One evening, I told him how unhappy I was not to be able to find in Sighet [the village in Transylvania Wiesel grew up in] a master to teach me the Zohar, the Kabbalistic works, the secrets of Jewish mysticism. He smiled indulgently. After a long silence, he said, “There are a thousand and one gates allowing entry into the orchard of mystical truth. Every human being has his own gate. He must not err and wish to enter the orchard through a gate other than his own. That would present a danger not only for the one entering but also for those who are already inside.”’—Elie Wiesel, Night
My coffee and time here nearly done I gather my things together. Through a glass door I see the street outside, the cars whizzing by and buildings made of brick, concrete and glass. Peeking over top of the buildings are gaunt wintry trees silhouetted against a pale blue sky.