Sunday, September 23, 2007


Last night, as I was tossing about in bed getting ready to sleep, I noticed quite a bright light coming in through my blinds. As I live in the middle of the fields and there usually isn't a lot of ambient, urban-type light around here at night, I got up to look out the window and see what all the brilliance was about. And no, it wasn't some brand-new street lamp grinning in the window, but the moon--a just-past-half-full moon visible beyond the black branches of the tree in the side yard.

I've always had a thing about moonlight. I remember the first time I really noticed moonlight: I was twelve, and I'd got up to go to the bathroom. On my way back to my room, I saw a strangely bright, bluish light striking the wall above the stairs that went down to the first floor. There was a semi-circular window high up above the front door--we had one of those two-story foyers that were all the rage--and its shape was perfectly replicated in blue-white light. Intrigued, I went down a few steps until I was standing right in the gleaming half-disk. Before me, framed in the window, was the full, white moon. I stood there for a while in a kind of awe. I was a kid who loved fairy tales and fantasy, and the moon had some kind of resonance for me--This is what they're always talking about, I must have thought. The bright white moonlight. A moon so bright you can see by it.

I've noticed the moon here, often--almost every time I've come home after dark, in fact. I'm amazed at how clearly it lights up the yards and the houses, the shadows it casts through the trees. The moon always fills me with a weird kind of yearning: that's the word for it, yearning. I don't know what I yearn for, exactly, when I see the moon, but a powerful desire for something comes over me, a desire mingled with a nostalgia for a time I can't remember. If I had to guess, I'd say that I'm yearning for a life in which the moonlight matters, if that makes sense. In which I'm aware of it on a daily basis, and it makes a difference.

So last night I opened my blind, and then lifted the screen so that I could actually put my head and shoulders out the window and see the sky more clearly. The stars were out, too, though somewhat dwarfed by the brilliance of the moon. It's more than a little trite, I know, but it's easy for me to imagine the vastness of the universe when I look at the stars. I find them somehow reassuring. The world is big and wide and the moon is high and cold; the stars burn on and on and on. I knelt there for a long time, looking at the moon and the stars and the blue light on the grass, the black branches against the sky. When I finally went to bed, I left the shade up so that the moonlight could rake across me in my sleep.

Attention to such things: it's something I've usually lost--or never had, more likely. Not with any kind of consistency. Mindfulness, awareness of the existence of your own life, starts in such long looks. I also spent fifteen minutes last night watching a tiny bug that I had rescued from drowning dry itself off in the palm of my hand. Perhaps I needed these moments last night. Watching the bug slowly uncoil its antennae and reach a trembling limb out to the tip of my thumb, or the spinning of a leaf black in the white of the moon, I felt a kind of connection with things outside of myself (and my job). I slept well and dreamed vividly in the moonlight.


Hilaire said...

What a lovely, lovely post.

It made me think of the Cat Power song, "The Moon." Somehow your descriptions here seem to have a kind of emotive resonance with it.

Flavia said...

I feel this way about the moon, too--and actually, about night (especially being out at night) in general. There's something about even driving around in a car, late at night, that fills me with a nameless yearning. Like you I think of it as nostalgia, too, except I can't think of any specific thing in my own life that I'm nostalgic for.

Thanks for the post.

Sisyphus said...

Your post made me think of this poem:

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

wil said...

Great post. There is something special about moonlight — something soft and subtle and mysterious. But at times I've been annoyed — camping or at home, if I've left a shade undrawn — by the brilliant bright light of a full moon. It can be hard to sleep if someone's shining a flashlight in your eyes.

I wonder if you might enjoy At Day's Close by Roger Ekirch. It's an entertaining history of early-modern night (activities, beliefs, etc.).

Ancrene Wiseass said...

Beautiful post, and a good reminder, too.

medieval woman said...

This is really a great post, heu! Thanks for sharing it!

Belle said...

Lovely post; we all need to remember and live those moments when we can. Thank you.