Did you see the moon last night? It was glorious. At midnight I stood under it like standing under a hot sun. But the moon's light is cold and silvery, like I imagine rain's light to be if it were to cast such a thing. Moon shadows all over the yard - long, black, indecipherable. The craggy limbs of the firs, hemlocks, and cedars etched the sky behind them like engravings on blue-black glass. And it was so quiet I could hear the scritching of a beetle's legs as it scurried over dried leaves in the basement window well. Like a spotlight, the moon's beams illuminated a bowl of moonsnail shells sitting on the edge of the garden.
Yesterday was 9/11, and I thought about it all while I was out there in the yard with the moon, the black trees, and the bowl of moonlight at my feet. I thought about all of the posts on my Facebook wall - those that honored the victims of the terrorists' attacks, the posts that railed against the victims of our retributive attacks in Iran and Afghanistan, the prayers for peace and sanity, the demands to end the endless wars we engage in, the stories of children who have known only war since the day they were born, the messages of pride in being American despite everything or because of ignorance of everything. I stood under the moon and gazed at the silhouettes of those trees and thought about it all.
The way our house is situated on this hill, it is as if it were encircled by evergreens. They are of towering height. Sometimes I'll see a bird, an eagle, hawk, or crow, perched at the very tiptop of one and imagine the world they can survey from that vantage point. These trees have been faithful companions over the years. I have stood in place, turning and turning so I can see the perimeter they form, a sacred circle. I have sent up praise and thanksgiving when I can't believe how blessed I've been. And I've wept and prayed for some understanding and grace when life has brought me to my knees. I have had long conversations with myself and the world while the trees sat in council, lending their quiet wisdom.
Last night, I drew comfort from their stalwart presence. From their constancy. From their timeless wisdom that lets them grow roots down and branches up. From their implacability.
The moon, old as she is, wanders. She cannot help but wander night after night through the sky. Waxing and waning. I drew comfort from that, too, at the cusp of the Monday and Tuesday, at the very moments when September 11, 2011 turned to a new decade. I drew comfort from the moon's rhythmic inconstancy, her varied lives of light and darkness, "the portentousness of her measured concealments and revealments" (The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images). An ancient wanderer who has guided wanderers for millenia.
This triad of moon, tree, and shell grounded me at the end of the long commemorative day in which I felt so many conflicting emotions. Before I went back into the house, I looked closely on the bowl of moonsnail shells. Looked at them as if I had never seen them before. At first glance they are white. Look closer and one can see the variations of earth, sea, and sky - blue, gray, golden, black, silver, pink, and brown. Shells spiraling around themselves, following an inner way, Fibonacci's intricate path to a galaxial form of timeless beauty. Ariadne's thread sculpted in a sea creature cast upon the shore. A shell. A husk. An empty thing that once held life.
I held one of the shells in my hand, felt its form as if it were molded just for my palm. Like the moon it was named for, the fleetness of its being paradoxically lent it age. I put the shell gently back in the bowl and went back into the sleeping house.