Monday, November 09, 2009

Counting Down

There is a finite number of full moons in a person’s life.

Fairly obvious and, at the same time, startling, the thought came to me Monday night as the light from the cream-colored poker chip in the sky spilled over my shoulder and into my lap and the miles between me and Sandhill grew fewer.

I caught my breath. Held it for a moment high in my chest. Felt my hands loosen their grip on the steering wheel just slightly as I heard the night whisper, "Pay attention." So I did.

What I noticed first was the color of the light itself. Not white or yellow like the beam of a light bulb, but luminous blue-green, like pool water at night. And not clear and piercing, but diffused as though coming through a scrim. There were no edges to the light, no defined stream; the entire landscape was covered and seemed to shiver under its unmeasurable weight.

It was dark – The sun had been down for an hour at least. – but the outlines of the houses, the barns, the fences, the billboards were all still clean and straight, like portraiture silhouettes.

Turning onto the dirt road, the angle of the light shifted and now came through the back windshield making me feel, more than ever, as though I were being stalked. Erratic breaks in the tree canopy turned the moonlight into a strobe, flashing up and down, side to side, the color now reminding me of the black-light posters Keith used to have on his bedroom walls.

As I pulled into the carport, the moon was straight ahead, no longer stalking, but beckoning. Its light had turned the deck into a castle keep, the stark white deck posts into silver ramparts, the pots of rosemary into miniature turrets.

There were none of the usual nighttime sounds coming from the branch. The chill in the air had silenced the crickets, the frogs, the birds. The light had stilled the deer who would wait until later to forage the now-empty fields for some last vestige of corn hidden in the trampled-over rows. I was as alone as one ever is.

I like to think that I always pay attention. I like to think that my eyes and my mind are always open. I like to think that I always notice things of beauty and matters of import. But none of those things are always true. Sometimes I’m just plain lazy.

Not lazy in the sense of neglecting work or responsibility, but lazy in letting work and responsibility overwhelm the reality that nobody lives forever, beauty is fleeting, relationships need tending.

Sometimes I read three pages of a book and realize I don’t know what I’ve read or catch myself singing along with something on the radio and realize I’ve just said/sung something I don’t believe to be true. Sometimes I put a stamp on a birthday card without remembering the face of the person to whom it is being sent and breathing a prayer of gratitude for that life. Sometimes I look out the window and realize that the season has changed and I didn’t notice. That is no way to live.

There is a finite number of full moons in a person’s life. A finite number of sunsets, of low tides, of tomato sandwiches, of chances to love without condition. I don’t want to miss a single one.

Copyright 2009

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