The Moon’s the North Wind’s Cooky
The Moon’s the North Wind’s cooky.
He bites it, day by day,
Until there’s but a rim of scraps
That crumble all away.
The South Wind is a baker.
He kneads clouds in his den,
And bakes a crisp new moon that . . . greedy
North . . . Wind . . . eats . . . again!
- Vachel Lindsay
My mother used to read me that poem. My father too.
I sat outside tonight in the freezing cold looking at the full moon, and remembered this poem. Tonight was a crisp night, cold to the face but clear. The moon was full, clear, the clouds had left leaving only sky and emptiness. The cruel North Wind nipping at me, eating me into a rim of scraps.
But the moon was not alone. Slightly above, and for most of the night, just to the left sat Jupiter. Clear, bright… distant. Like other nights before on the full moon I took my modest camera out to the back yard and fiddled with the settings. Trying desperately to get “the shot”.
The ‘money shot’. The shot that says, yes, I deserve your approval…I’m legit. Aperature, stutter speed, flash, no flash, zoom, focus…and done. Frozen, empty, alone outside my house shooting the distant moon – and its night companion. It’s ‘one night stand’…just under 500 million miles from the sun, looking just like any other star in the night sky.
I wondered if anyone else knew that was Jupiter. I suppose more people than I know, more people that I don’t know to be exact, did know for sure. But then I wondered how many of people completely missed it. I thought about the volumes of junk, stress, bills, grades, and demands I had only moments before and how here I was, lucky enough to know that Jupiter is right there…I can see it! And…and…there’s the moon, I mean the moon is full and its RIGHT THERE! What struck me was not so much that the moon and Jupiter were right there, although that was important, but more so that I was lucky enough to see it. On the other side of that coin I felt sad. Sad for the people that were completely oblivious.
Big deal, its the moon.
Yes, it is the moon, and it is Jupiter. What I thought about was more than just ‘what it was’ I was looking at in the night sky. It was awareness. It was wonder…and it had been missing. And it is…missing, from so much of my life, I had forgotten that it was…missing.
I had spent the better part of a few weeks buried in emails, Twitter feeds, e-books, and online classes, I had ‘lost time’. I had been trying so hard to be a good dad, a good husband and a good teacher and mentor, time skipped – or seemed to anyway – a chapter.
My daughter put in a movie the other night and since the disc was scratched it started pausing, then jumping, then stopping, then pixelating the images on the screen. “Daddy! It’s skipping!” she yelled at me from the other room. I obediently attended to the remote, and advanced the movie a chapter only to say, “Just skip that part, it’s scratched”. She was none the wiser. Didn’t seem to care.
And I think tonight was not-unlike that. For so many driving home, Tweeting, or blasted after a day of work, family or kids, tonight was a ‘skip-to-me-in-my-bed-chapter’ kind of night. Its ok, that part of the day was scratched, its broken, it doesn’t look right, it didn’t go well, I’m too tired, I’ve had enough, I’m done…pick your own helpless lament and fill in the blank “Just skip that part, _______________ “.
I suppose I had enough of those nights in the last few weeks.
What I noticed tonight, was that I hadn’t ‘noticed’ much at all in the last few weeks. I hadn’t, ‘paused for station identification’. I hadn’t, ‘stopped’ to smell…anything at all. I hadn’t even stopped.
But it’s good work right? I’m doing good things at work, right? People like what I’m doing, I’m helping people, doing meaningful work? As my dad would put it, “You’re no use to anyone if your dead. You can’t kill yourself over stuff that really doesn’t matter.”
So, I stopped. I paused, and I wondered…and I took time to take pictures. To breathe the cold, bitter North Wind. Think of him kneading the clouds that would grace the sky some other night…thought of my family. Inside, tucked away comfortably in their beds asleep. Thought of my parents, my brother, my sisters, where they are and what they are doing. Hoping that maybe they were wondering, pausing, stopping as well. It’s a family trait not to know when to quit…a blessing and a curse.
I often have days where everyone in my house is crazy, like, more than usual crazy. Off-the-charts kind of crazy, and stuff just goes wrong. I get this feeling in my gut asking, “What the hell’s with these people?” Then I can see it’s a full moon. It happens all the time. There it is, in the night sky staring at me, making people crazy, surreptitiously reminding me how connected I am to it – the moon. Maybe that’s it, that the moon has a dramatic effect on my moods…possibly. Maybe it has a more dramatic impact on my kids or my family. Perhaps. Or, maybe there is something more to the moods – the crazy.
I think it’s God. I think it’s my dad. Maybe the universe, if you go that way. It’s the spirit of the people I care the most about telling me to stop. Or, at least to pause. And take a moment to wonder – or just to pause.
Go look at the moon. Take a picture. Pause a beat. Draw a breath.
Be grateful you noticed.