how to watch the moon

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My kids were a little bummed out by the Super Blood Moon, if you want to know the truth. The three-year-old, after discovering that we weren’t actually going to the moon, and the six-year-old, after approximately five whole minutes of staring into the sky.

We’d driven up Mulholland Drive to get, I suppose, as close to the moon as we could get. There’s something romantic about that. And ridiculous. “Where should we watch the moon in LA?” I’d been Googling. I hate Google because it forces you to put into text just how stupid you are. It also validates that sort of stupidity because the question always pops up before you’re finished typing it, as tens or hundreds of others have asked the same thing. Of course I could just walk into the front yard and view the moon, as I have been able to do for… ever. The moon is sort of inescapable that way. But I am a first-born and we are selfish and self-important and like to have the best of everything, so I put in a little effort to make sure that I’d not have to settle for an only so-so view.

We ended up alongside that famous drive, looking opposite the way the lookout was intended to be used for looking: away from the lights of the city and toward a barely-distinguishable orange glow.

The moon was clouded.

The first-born in me raged.

“That’s it?” Miles asked. The first-born in him was also a little peeved.

“Keep watching,” I said, unconvinced and probably unconvincing. Turns out the Super Blood Moon was bumming me out a little bit, too.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting. Fire in the sky? Some kind of pyrotechnic show? When something happens only once every twenty-five years or so, you kind of want it to be memorable. You want it to be spectacular. You want it to be Disneyland’s Paint the Night Parade. So I was equally bugged by my children’s indifference as I was in complete solidarity with it.

At first, I felt the whole experience had been over-hyped. The moon itself was letting me down. The moon isn’t really that good. But God said it was, on the fourth day of creation, specifically, so I tried to revise that thought. Good. Maybe it was just the clouds that weren’t so good? Yeah! Los Angeles and its dirty, disgusting smog was ruining the good moon. Or maybe I was unlucky? People got better, closer, cloudless views of the moon if they’d gone to the Griffith Park Observatory! My Google-brain ranneth over with ideas and excuses for how or why I wasn’t enjoying the Super Moon as much as people all over the country were. Midwestern friends gushed on their social media platforms about just how super and amazing the moon had been when it was visiting them. Was it possible that the moon used up all its superness somewhere over Colorado?

But of course the Super Blood Moon was not a disappointment. It was, after all, my view of it, and I don’t mean my perch on Mulholland Drive.

The thing of it is this: my heart needs the moon.  I know this by the way I check my phone during the day: unconsciously, repeatedly. I know it by the way my mind wanders and flits over a to-do list. I know it by my meager prayer life. I know it by how often I just try to “get through” the best things in life: the dailyness of cooking up dinner on the stove, the sweet smell of sweat on my children after a day of play, the quick, almost automatic, kiss hello from my husband, the time I get to write.

Annie Dillard was correct, of course: “You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.”

I wondered how I might stop acquiescing to all that does demand my attention. (“She puts it in the microwave,” the Internet bellows at me, “And you’ll never believe what happens next!”) I sat down on the edge of our minivan to watch the feathers of clouds pass through the otherworldly light of that familiar orb. When was the last time I’d done it? Despite the chatter of my children and the periodic glow of headlights passing by, despite the quickness with which those around us got into their cars and left, and despite my own reluctance to stop and see, there were many moons that night. At turns orange and bright white, it was half there and all there, dwarfed and cut off by the earth, abask in the light of a sun I couldn’t even see.  A moon both familiar and unfamiliar, glorious and quiet, larger than life and exactly as it’s always been. A moon swathed in clouds moving quickly past it and on their way through dark.

The world spins, I remembered. The world spins and I don’t even realize it. My personal orbit keeps me so occupied that I forget my place in the cosmos sometimes.

I forget that that beautiful, good moon is up there each night.

The smaller light to govern the night.

It is a quiet miracle only in that, no matter what Shakespeare said, it is constant. It is not a spectacle only because it is always.

“Be still and know that I am God,” He said.

“Be still,” my husband told the kids, “And let’s just watch the moon.”

*image, a composite of the moon that night, via Mike Mezeul

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One thought on “how to watch the moon

  1. Ivy says:

    I’m finally finding a minute to comment! It has been a crazy week! I loved this though. I love seeing the world through your writer’s lens. You come up with insights I’ve missed & I’m thankful for the encouragement I gain reading your posts. My blood moon experience was this: I didn’t know it existed until my students told me about it the next morning, but I did say to Jon that night from the comfort of my bed & closed blinds, “wow the moon is really bright tonight…weird…zzzzz” Ha!

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