Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

She whispers a silver light on the meadow where the mist rises as I stop and listen intently to the silence. Really listen. Really silent. My feet seem to glide or lightly dance along the dirt road as I wind my way around the garden toward my hermitage ‘Holy Angels.’ I need them. The darkness is friendly and I inhale big gulps of it. The moon is a harsh mistress. She follows, a stealth presence: always there, always silent, always palpable, always Present. She hails to my heart and I turn my back as I choose to ignore her.

This place has been home for a long time—more than two decades. The sanctuary was quiet and St. Francis was the only figure in the chapel silo as I slipped out into the night. I hear my own footfalls as I make my way through the night to a place that is safe, that wraps me in a friendly coolness and breathes my heart in the vastness of its call. It happens every time: they offer a flashlight and I decline. I have never needed one here. Even on the nights when there is no moon I have never needed one. There are some places that generate their own light from within and this is one of them. Seeing through the darkness is no problem in some places. For two decades I have wandered here at night without a flashlight never losing my way, never not seeing the path.

This is the only place on Earth that I know of where it is so quiet that in Winter, if you stop crunching through the snow and slow your breath, you can hear the snow falling. Yes, hear it. Do you know what falling snow sounds like? A thousand micro-bells that tinkle ever so lightly as their crystalline forms cascade through the air to land softly with a tiny “tink” on pine boughs.

I reach my cabin and open the porch screen, the hinge squeak echoing across the night signaling my arrival to Miranda who is huddled in the corner waiting for me. She comes easily and quickly, licking my hand welcoming me home and insists that I scratch her ears hello by positioning them squarely in my palm. She asks nothing of me except love and an occasional ear scratch. Small price to pay for perpetual unconditional love. I sink into the Adirondack and pull the comforter round me. I lift my heels to the ledge and settle back into the quiet. ‘Randy’ places her jaw on my thigh and sighs deeply as I feel her body shiver.

I match her shudder as Randy, ever the Retriever, retrieves a metaphor from the night for the poet in me. She reminds me that we can send a man up there—to the moon and safely retrieve them even when their odds are slender, but we can’t retrieve our human shadow. We can’t leash it obediently to our sides as we walk through this adventure called life—not even for a moment. Its unruly snarling and snapping jaws sometimes beg a muzzle for it cannot be taken into polite company for lack of civil and simple housetraining.

The shadow should be off limits here in this sacred place. In fact, nothing of its kind should be allowed here. This should be safe haven. This is a place where the human spirit is elevated and celebrated and the soul takes a breath that is long and deep and cool like water. Even here I am reminded of how ardently we defile our salvation: love.

Something calls across the space and something behind me answers. Was it a Screech Owl and her mate? A badger growling because dinner is late? Or is it my mind that momentarily squeaked on the hinges of its gate as it just whooshed out into the cosmos sparkling above my head? I feel kind of empty as I imagine a leaky mind must feel. Maybe my mind has decided this is just too much to ask. Maybe the shadow is supposed to win. Maybe humankind is destined to be crushed by the weight of it. Maybe the darkness is our destiny. Maybe Darth was right. Or maybe I need a different kind of flashlight, one to pop a light saber. Maybe we underestimate the power of the dark side. The valley of the shadow is upon us.

She taps my shoulder. I ignore her once again for she has come to mean something else for me—a sphere reflecting the light certainly, but more. She is something I never knew before. Someone I never knew. She is the goddess, the grandmother, the mystic queen and a symbolic home for someone I have come to know in reflection, as reflection. She is now too: the dancer, the magician, the alchemist, the song, the shaman, and king—he who walks her in dance across the night. I know he is there. I know he is waiting. The moon is a harsh mistress.

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A few Thoughts...

When I think about it, my own life is no less rich and the living no less inspiring than my pioneering ancestors and I come from a long line of Indians and outlaws so don't ever turn your back on me!

Life is, after all, a slice of human consciousness lived from its place in human evolution. "From here to eternity" as it were-- from earth to the stars, from personal space to cyberspace, from a small local footprint to the world reduced to the size of a notebook and sitting on your lap!

As a child I lived with the perpetual and immenent threat of annihilation. That's child abuse! It wasn't a kid-friendly world and I couldn't understand why the grown-ups who were in charge weren't doing something?

So at age seven with my face in the window eyes turned up into the night sky and staring at the stars I made a vow: "When I am a grown-up, I will do something."

My writing is that something and I write to "simply change the world." If that sounds like a lack of humility it isn't because I know that one person absolutely can change the world and I've met some who have.

Kay Kennedy put together an anthology that puts the reader in the midst of history to view it from the inside out.

When I was in high school and even college, history classes were stale and boring featuring memorization and regurgitation of dates that coincided with events that had no human face, certainly no magic, and no life!

Anthologies are great fun and stores are rich remembrances. History books chronicle; stories are little narrative slices of living. History comes alive through story. I often think of my grandmother and her story, her life-- the history she lived. In her lifetime she saw humankind evolve from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

I was a sixties kid and for the youth of the sixties, turmoil, disillusionment, and revolution were everyday 'business as usual'. Like a radio perpetually on low volume, fear and death dronned on in the background. The superpowers threatened to extinguish all life on the planet, the Vietnam War was escalating and peers were being escorted home under American Flag blankets. The civil rights and equal rights movements were testing human civility, and faster than one could recover from one shock another real life hero would fall to yet another assassin. Despair was commonplace. Contrast that with a man on the moon... we could conquer space travel but couldn't make nukes or war obsolete! It was a time when youth needed hope because hope was scarce. When it was finally resurrected, it came in the form of idealism and a philosophy of brotherly and universal love. Perfect principles; imperfect execution.

For others who contributed to "Looking Back," the history is different for each because the "times" were different as well as the perspective of the individuals. The stories of human societal evolution are enlightening, heartwarming, poignant and spellbinding. They put a human face on the past.

And there are people now who are putting a face on the future...