Sunday, July 17, 2011

Moonrise (an extraordinary moment)

The wind slapped the flag and the sides of the boat as we pulled into open water. The motor churned a spray of white foam against the black water and crowds of people lurched to the sides of the boat for one last look at Provincetown. They nestled further into mustard yellow cardigans and boyfriend's sweatshirts, pulled on crumpled windbreakers, and held out their cameras with both hands. One picture was never enough, it had to be four or five, adjusting the lighting and exposure, the sun tossing a few stray beams of light their way as it descended below the horizon.

We sat quiet, watchful, our knees pressed against our chests and our flipflops slipping against the edge of the bench. A group of men laughed about the lobster they'd eaten. A woman on her fourth gin & tonic danced with a stranger using his headphones as their DJ on the upper deck. A French couple in hiking socks and cargo shorts spread a towel over their knees to keep their legs warm. Somewhere behind us seagulls wailed and dived, and a little boy leaned over the side of the dock to grasp at a vision of the giant fish swimming underneath the surface of the water.

The day had been ordinary. A fast ferry ride to the edge of Cape Cod, an afternoon poking our heads through shop after shop of unaffordable sugar scrubs and cowboy boots and vintage jewelry, conversation that trailed off as we passed eager tourists in pink and green P-Town shirts. It was time together, for the two of us, remembering six years of learning the pattern of life. We scuffed our shoes along the planks of the dock, and felt the salty air against our cheekbones. We wondered, as we often had before, why life had brought us (or kept us) here, working the jobs we worked, living in our red and yellow houses, and we each whispered our dreams to the other: how I longed for the red line and a chai cupcake, how she wished her address was Downtown Crossing and the hum of the T. As we pulled on our sweatshirts it all felt ordinary.

On the boat we told a few stories, laughed and felt our smiles pinching the sides of our cheeks. My dimples always show when I laugh. Her eyes always squint when she laughs. So there we sat: two girls in the ordinary day, shoulders leaning one on another, on the outer deck of the ferry listening to the world.
And then the moon rose. 
It crept up red, dusting the Atlantic with its glow. It deepened in color as it rose, and the rest of the sky darkened in welcome. A few stars caught glimmers of the red and winked at us. The old man sitting next to me poked my shoulder and said, "Am I crazy, or is that the moon?" And there it was: red moon rising.

As we went on, it climbed faster, a thin gauze of cloud occasionally passing over its surface, which changed from deep red to amber to pale fiery white. It was full, and as it ascended it cut the surface of the water with its light. The glow made a path of light directly behind the spray from the boat, and as I watched, the path flickered with the movement of the waves.

In an ordinary day, a day of two girls wishing they were somewhere else, a day of Mexican food and gelato, and feeling the knarled wood of the pier under my feet, the moon rose red over the Atlantic.

And God whispered, "Had you forgotten Me?" 


A poem from Lisel Mueller called "Moon Fishing":

When the moon was full they came to the water.
some with pitchforks, some with rakes,
some with sieves and ladles,
and one with a silver cup.

And they fished til a traveler passed them and said,
to catch the moon you must let your women
spread their hair on the water --
even the wily moon will leap to that bobbing
net of shimmering threads,
gasp and flop till its silver scales
lie black and still at your feet."

And they fished with the hair of their women
till a traveler passed them and said,
do you think the moon is caught lightly,
with glitter and silk threads?
You must cut out your hearts and bait your hooks
with those dark animals;
what matter you lose your hearts to reel in your dream?"

And they fished with their tight, hot hearts
till a traveler passed them and said,
what good is the moon to a heartless man?
Put back your hearts and get on your knees
and drink as you never have,
until your throats are coated with silver
and your voices ring like bells."

And they fished with their lips and tongues
until the water was gone
and the moon had slipped away
in the soft, bottomless mud.


  1. First, beautifully written, as usual.
    Second, have you by any chance read the book 'Red Moon Rising'?
    Third, on Sunday, God said to me, 'I miss you,' and even thought it wasn't at moon rise, it caught my attention.
    Fourth, I hope you have the most wonder-filled of birthdays today, with joy lurking around the corners and laughter jumping up from the grass, with smiles greeting you every where you go, and love holding you oh so tightly.

  2. Thank you, Suzanne. It's so good to hear those words. I am always surprised and amazed to hear God say those things to me. It's miraculous and beautiful. Let's get together soon (for tea, maybe?)


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