Swear Not By The Moon

This morning I woke to the semi-translucent dawn-version of last night’s super moon sliding down a purple ridge.

Seems like everyone has been talking about the moon for the past few days, which is a good deal nicer than many of the things we talk about lately. . . and it’s been good to see a natural phenomena take over the news feeds for a bit. Sometimes I forget how many people still appreciate such things.

So I too watched this moon eclipse last night, along with half the cloud-free world, and it got me thinking about a different lunar eclipse, one from almost exactly eleven years ago.

This one stands out among its sisters in part because it occurred during my peak decade of, what to call it. . . Maximum World Sensitivity? Luxurious Melancholy? Extreme Emotional Permeability? Whatever you want to call it, it was my brand. Let’s just say, I knew how to get my brood on as well as any of my Isle ancestors might have as they walked the misty moors in the soft rain and stared out at the sea for hours.

I also remember this particular eclipse because at the time I wrote about it, and then included the essay in my thesis — a fact I now have mixed feelings about, but, whatever.

So it goes like this: I’m sitting in my parked car up at the Water Works overlook in Missoula, watching a shadow inch across the moon.  I’m leaning back in the reclined driver’s seat, folded into myself, wrapped in navy wool, shivering a little, and tripping out that I’m actually resting on the very source of this umbral shadow, cast some quarter of a million miles like a long, dark tunnel.

I don’t know why I stay in the car, why I don’t go lay on the brown grass of the hill. I imagine it has something to do with the aforementioned brooding, and at any rate, I stay inside, slouching to see the moon through the smudged glass.  I guess that’s not quite enough to set the mood so I light some fir incense, and listen to some real, real sad music.

The music-moon combination makes me weep, not that that’s anything special. I remember every note of the music, I think of all the nights I fell asleep to these same achingly beautiful chords, in cold bedrooms, under blue and white covers, looking at moonlight. I remember everything. I feel as old as starlight.

So there I am, solitary and glad of it. Gettin’ weird. In the essay I describe the eclipse as “a fist slowly tightening,” and contemplate how anyone who is watching this is actually witnessing time move in a very literal sense, which, again, is Tripping. Me. Out.

And then it is gone, and there is only a vague rusty light in the shape of a great circle. And time passes so slowly as I wait, shivering, for the light to return. I go full-feeling for a bit — digging my fingers into the seat’s sheepskin cover, taking deep cold breaths. Below me, down the bank, there is a street lamp that flickers on and off at random — now the only light on the hill — and when it sputters out, the night feels too dark, heavy black. I wonder is the moon’s light will ever return, but I’m so cold I can’t wait, and drive home to brood in warmth.

Back home I watch time start to grind again as the shadow skulks away, and let the fresh moonlight sift through my fingers.   

All this is to say, it’s always interesting to look back on yourself, but for anyone who journals, sometimes the window to the past can be a little too exact. Sometimes it feels like facing a version of yourself from the opposite end of an eclipse.

So last night I went outside, wrapped in wool, and stood next to the crab apple tree. I watched the rust-red moon hover over our rust-red roof, blocking out distant stars. The air felt the same as that distant night — crisp and cool and fresh enough to feel physically poignant. And though she has been called inconstant, the moon looked the same, too — blood-dipped and shadowy.

Vin chased Hazel dog around the yard, and I watched her bound and bank, through the crunchy leaves, alive with that specific kind of electric nocturnal energy.

Our young son slept inside, arms spread out like wings, snoring slightly to the sound of recorded waves, waves forever bound by the indomitable pull of the very moon peaking through the starred curtains of his window.

I breathed in and out, and went to bed before the end, knowing with deep certainty the light would return.

Which isn’t to say I wasn’t grateful to wake in the night to that familiar nudge of silver light through the glass . . . or that my hand did not reach out from the covers to hold it in a pale, open palm.

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