Monthly Archives: February 2006

Walking in the Moonlight

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Today was a grueling day at work, one of those days when there’s nonstop fires to put out and complex problems to solve, and you end up eating lunch at your desk with little hope of a break. By 5:00 I was ready to stop looking at a computer screen but it wasn’t ready to stop looking at me, so another hour and a half passed of twilight work, where you know you’re not doing your best work and you have to keep at it anyway. I was back out at the coast by 7:30 though, and ready to give Vince a well-deserved evening walk — but I was by no means ready for the landscape which greeted us.

The night was still, a fact which I’d established by noticing that the hotdog flag flying above the Dog House eatery on the south end of town was motionless against the flagpole as I drove by, but the air was cold enough to require wearing a scarf and wool watchcap before getting out in it. The sky held a field of mist low to the ground, like salt spray from the ocean waves hanging suspended in place above the surf, more dense closer to the ground and extending upwards as it thinned out several meters off the ground. It is often this way in the mornings on clear days, when the sun hasn’t yet risen far enough to heat up the ocean air and the hills of Tomales and Pt. Reyes are swathed in a thin white veil rising from the surf.

As soon as Vince and I stepped out from under the trees and came into the open, all eyes were drawn to the moon hovering over the eastern hills, newly waning and near full. It held forth like a queen in a sky completely free of clouds, and the mist accentuated its form like the sheerest of garments. All stars around its orb were vanquished, but I recognized Orion on the outskirts a little to the west, and the Pleiades gathered in a corner gossiping while the rest of the court struggled to make itself seen in the fabulous glow of the moon.

Below it, the hills retreated in layers of deep lavender to pearl, and the air itself seemed to glow from within like some vision of the afterlife. I half expected a voice to tell me, “follow the light!” as I flew through the realms of Bardo and into that oneness at the center of things that feels, in these fleeting moments, like a yearning greater than the pull of life itself.

But there was no voice telling me I’d finally finished work and it was time to go home. Instead, there was the realization that I’ll probably live into my 90s and was therefore truly in mid-life. And one inhale seemed to follow the last exhale in ceaseless rhythm, the brisk air filling my lungs and rolling my shoulders back gently so that I was soon walking fully upright. It reminded me of my pledge months earlier, back in the beginning of what seemed then a separation and what is now revealed to be a break-up of my marriage of 21+ years, that the one thing I could do in the face of countless betrayals was to not let them break my posture. Eyes open wide, breathing in deep. That’s how I would choose to face death, and it’s how I choose to face life — with occasional rest stops as necessary to cry, self-medicate, and rail against that sanctimonious…

But my kids read my blog sometimes, so I will save the best rants for my memoir. And meanwhile, turning the corner towards home, the moon was at my back and the landscape in front of me was glowing as though backlit with the most ephemeral spotlight. It reminded me of what my dear friend Reya blogged the other day about her love of snow. The way the moonlight touched every cowpie, every curb, every cattail and clump of grass, giving to each a shimmering halo of atoms that was motionless yet vibrating with great intensity, made it all seem dusted with snow.

In comparison with the celestial view to the east, turning westward brought the harbor lights into view, the orange-yellow incandescence of humanity and its boats, its houses and headlights, reflected in the dark water. There were two worlds on view tonight, and we walked between them on a fragile bridge of fresh-crackling snowlight hovering in the field around us. Who can possibly complain about anything while coming upon such achingly beautiful scenes? Certainly not me, definitely not tonight.

Poems for Brigid

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The City of Silence
by William Matthews

As far as a sound wave rings out
before it’s heard,
that’s where the city limits are.

I keep the place clean.
Anything you worship
will let you be its priest.

If I open my mouth
a word falls in.
Gods avoid their shrines.

The streets are paved with streets.
Sleep is my radio and all
its news is true.


Then Call It Swimming
by Ellen Bass

you are concerned. your writings
are not poems — there are no line breaks
sentences wind like coils of a pot

they are not stories — no beginning
middle end, characters
are not developed
the action is a child
in green chiffon

you apologize: I
don’t know what to call it
you want a name

then call it swimming. the water passes over you
the smoothness
the liquid
the smoothness more enveloping than making love
your arm, arching in the sun
lit drops, crystals, falling

or call it walking, the air
cold in your nostrils
the ground soft with rotting leaves
the green is too bright

     some are mushrooms, some maize
     some take long as persimmon to fruit
     some leave neatly
     they are the black pearl droppings of deer
     some are overgrown pups
     they hang on your tit, you cannot
     shake them off

call it
coming home, returning
by a different route

call it a sandwich in waxed paper
we will give it to our children

call it an antidote
to what we have been taught

call it rubble, what remains
through pyres, altars, ovens, electricity

call it what comes in place of sleep
what we ask to know

a tribute to redwood pods, they
burst within fire, seeding
young groves