Thursday, November 13, 2008

Measuring the Moon

"Dreyfus once wrote from Devil's Island that he would see the most glorious birds. Many years later in Brittany he realized they had only been seagulls... For me they will always be "glorious birds." (Harold and Maude)

We watched the moon rise from the top of Rebel Hill tonight, silent and pale, with only a few small patches of clouds interrupting the vastness of stars hovering in space. I'd spotted it as Duncan sniffed the scrawny trunks of the locust trees which have either tragically or blessedly been planted amid the plaza of cement down between the four baseball diamonds. I happened to glance over my shoulder to see it erupting from the eastern horizon and gasped aloud at its suddenness and the silence with which it rose. Duncan startled at my breath, his body going tense and his face reading mine for some indication of what had happened. He followed close at my side as we hurried across the parking lot and up the hill behind the park and rec building to the path winding up from the memorial. It was where I'd led Elijah last Easter, where he'd told me I'd never be alone as long as I thought of him while Duncan and I sat on the low stone bench looking out over the plains and the mountains and the city which rises up between them.

Duncan sat next to me and together we watched the moon, amazing in the ascent we all take for granted. There is magic in the way she climbs the night and I've been told that her size on the horizon is exactly the same as her size when she reaches the highest point of the sky, that she is no bigger at the beginning than she is at the end, that it is nothing but a trick of light and angles. So I measured her with my thumb, holding it up close to my eye. She was as big as the nail but far brighter and much more beautiful. I let Dunc's leash fall and while he sniffed the edge of the walkway for bunnies, I spread out on my back and played with the clouds. Several drifted past which looked exactly like Santa's eyebrows, mustache and beard, all floating independently of each other, hair without a face to grow on. They seemed not to move at all until I looked past them at a small quiet star when their pace would suddenly seem to jerk and accelerate as the wind caught them and pulled them toward the north. Looking directly at their mustached center they stopped again until my eye rediscovered the star. Over and over I did the trick, and sometimes it seemed that I could see and feel the spinning of the entire world beneath me as the sky moved without moving. After many long minutes my clouds grew bored with my game and turned into something else entirely before moving out over the golf course and beyond my field of vision.

Later, much later, at an hour when Duncan is used to the sound of my sleeping, we ventured back out across the street and up the hill. The park was silent and the traffic had found a den to curl up in and sleep until the early hours when it spills out over the world again. Such silence, broken only occasionally by the appearance of a single car on Bowles, its solitary rush and hum almost beautiful as it moved alone, the sound of its wheels cracking across the pavement like a song, like the fall of snow, like everything and nothing. How is it that one sounds like music but the symphony sounds like madness? The moon had made much progress and not even Orion could match her brisk pace. We sat in the same spot and with Duncan at my side I raised my thumb to my eye, held it as close to her pale body as I could and gasped again. It's true. Light and angles and the horizon had played a trick on me, but I prefer to call it magic.

We should all make time for the rising of the moon. Every once in a while.


Greg said...

That sweet silvery orb is pretty tricky about her presentation, isn't she? I'm always astounded by her apparently size upon rising, and always disappointed by the photos when I get back home.

Murphy's Mom said...

oh! You have magic in your words. Poetry in your blood. You take my breath away!

Cheryl said...

Did you know that if you look at the moon (as it first rises) up-side down it looks smaller. Bend over and look at the moon from between your legs, I dare ya.