Moonlight and Softer Shadows …

Moonlight and Softer Shadows …

by Terry Crawford Palardy,  2008  
Originally published at Sunshine and Moonlight


For many years, long winter evenings would find me sitting in the back room, beyond the kitchen of this nineteenth-century house … a cozy room that had been a twentieth-century addition constructed to accommodate a washer and dryer, a freezer, and a food pantry.  The room’s back wall was completed with a step-down, east-facing, lean-to greenhouse, where late-fall tomatoes could safely ripen, garden plants could winter over, spring seedlings could have a safe start, and store-bought house plants could offer holiday color and fragrance.

A wood stove provides the necessary warmth, and two rocking chairs and a small round table give space for a quiet moment with a pot of tea. I often sit there while doing laundry, looking through the panes of the greenhouse, watching the moon rise over the woods behind the house.  At the horizon, just above the distant trees, the moon would hang low for a while, large, golden, and steady … it would rest there quietly before beginning its gradual drift upward. On a clear night, the stars overhead seemed to beckon it along … Orion hunting Taurus in the west, little Polaris twinkling in the northern distance, and the Seven Sisters directly overhead, watching us all  As the moon rises to meet them, it lightens in color, and lessens in size, a humble acknowledgment of the company it keeps …

Sometimes, a sleepless night would find me donning my coat and boots and slipping out the back door to make tracks in a new fallen snow … guided by the night sky’s steady light, I’d watch my own blue shadow blend into the castings of tall trees and bare branches. Chilled, I’d return to my chair by the wood stove, the room lit by the now-overhead bright white moon shining calmly through the roof of the greenhouse, and I’d pick up my notebook and pen. Words would pour onto the softly-lit snowy page. I would write of plans pending, and worries wending their way through my mind … I would write of past encounters, and anticipated moments inviting a script. I would record the dreams that I could recall, and wonder about those that I couldn’t … and would savor in words the successes I’d had, bits and snatches of ideas blending into visual images captured on the page.

For a few years, I would drive each late afternoon to my parents’ house, in the north end of town, to help with my parents’ care, and they would share stories, and give blessings, and then I would drive back home. My husband, in those years, was also spending time taking care of his mother at the south end of town, in her home. In time, one and then the other needed more care than we could give in a home setting. The drive to the nursing homes was a bit longer, and a bit sadder, and in those long years, the moon found me each evening driving alongside empty pastures and a salt marsh on my way home … street lights were few and far between …but the moonlight was most often sufficient.

Some nights the moon was itself alone in a clouded sky, in one of its various states: a slender crescent, a bulging gibbous, a smiling full face … but on many early nights it was accompanied by the planet Venus, the “evening star.” Those two heavenly bodies shared our place in space and were my steady companions on what might otherwise have been a lonely ride, and the twinkling stars millions of miles beyond them paled in comparison to those two smaller bodies visually enlarged by proximity to our planet.

The loneliest were the nights of the New Moon, an odd name for the nights of no moon. Venus, Polaris, and the others were left then to their own devices along that dark road … but in the moon’s absence, they faithfully returned to their place each night, as did I, knowing that the moon, predictably, would return in its time, steadily, gradually blossoming along its path, joining us once again with the warm, gentle light of trust, of confidence, of wisdom gained from experience. It is an example of practiced stability … it wanes when it must, and reliably returns to full strength … it is a humble model of reasonable potential that I can emulate, and follow.  

The other, the sun, is often credited with being our life source on this planet … so much fanfare is given, so much praise … high expectations are held … the potential of solar power, the promise of vitamin D, the warmth on a cold winter day, the lightening of moods … all true, and all valued.  The sun, though, in all its power, can also damage. The sun gives us skin cancer, heat stroke, burnt-out crops, a relentless, blinding light that exposes every flaw, casts harsh shadows, and fades and weakens exposed surfaces. The flares on the sun’s surface interrupt the transmissions of this planet’s satellite system, much as the lesions and flares in our aging brains interrupt the transmissions of our nervous system.

I respect the power and capacity of sunlight, I cannot warm to its harsh light as I do to the moon.  I try to escape the sun’s power and its glare.  The moon, in comparison, has a power within its own cycle … its light is not glaringly showy, as the sun, but quietly gentle, and compassionate …  it affects the ocean tides, and the cycle of women, and often the emotions of humanity. I remain in awe of the sunlight, but I am impressed with and unfailingly comforted by the beauty and reliability of the gentle, unassuming, humble moonlight.

 

by Terry Crawford Palardy,  2008  

Originally published at Sunshine and Moonlight

 

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