The Moon Wanders Tonight

Thoughts plucked from the night sky

I MISS the moon tonight with its subtle glow on my bluebird-print wallpaper. The moon always untangles and enlivens my thoughts. The moon tells me the truth and never quarrels with me. It doesn't praise me with too much light or rail at me with too much shadow. *

The sky is so purple tonight I can taste it in my mouth like a grape.

*

Clouds sail full-blown across the sky, like stories going to happy endings. But if the endings are happy, are they really endings? I wonder if clouds not carrying rain carry secrets. They seem to be silent, but could they be whispering to my soul? Singing to my soul?

*

The moon, the eternal peddler, is wandering tonight, looking for customers. It is wrapped in a shawl of light and carries a bundle of starry goods on its back. It has the firm motion of one that is sure of the way, even though unsure of what awaits along it.

*

At last some rain, and heavy, coming down not in single drops but in groups. When I was a child I was always fascinated by how vertical the rain was, how it seemed to form a kind of perpetual perpendicular. Sometimes, when I was alone, I would whisper to it, ``Why are you standing? Please, sit down.''

*

I wonder why I never lose hope, why it persists even without encouragement. Perhaps hope is a consolation, and one consolation will never leave until it is replaced by another.

*

When I was a boy, my mother always woke me very early for school, opening the door to my room and saying softly but emphatically, ``Son, it's time.'' Then she would go back to the kitchen and finish preparing the staple, French toast, for breakfast.

She would look out the window with the thankfulness of a person who had had to work courageously all her life yet considered herself fortunate. Sometimes she frowned, as if not rain should be falling, nor snow, but cheese omelets or hot cinnamon rolls. Sometimes she smiled with self-forgiveness that she'd always had to be so strong, for herself and others, and therefore she'd missed out on knowing the frightened part of herself, the little girl inside the grown woman.

*

When I was young I made room in my innocence for the world. So it is only right, only fitting, that now the world is making room in itself for my innocence.

*

Sometimes in my dreams I see my maternal grandfather - may he be a treasure in the other world - come out of the tenement where he lived when he was an immigrant in New York and sit on the curb of a sidewalk.

He sells radishes there, lovely, fresh, jumbo-sized radishes, as in the old country. Once I myself was passing by and I stopped and bought a bunch from him, not with money but with a story. As I left I looked back over my shoulder and spied him reading it. The deep lines in his forehead seemed to smile.

*

In my childhood was a pond near which I used to sit for hours studying the shiny pebbles on its bottom; they looked like minuscule fish turned to stone. On clear nights I would look at the sky as if it too were a pond and imagine that the stars had once been starfish. God had flung truth both high and low, and I was in the middle.

*

The moon tonight floating in the sky like a wonderful yellow balloon; the world holding it by a string of life, like a child lost in the woods and clinging to whimsy.

*

A playground a few blocks away was full of the laughter of children all day. Now it is empty and looks forlorn; it doesn't know what to do with itself. I will go and swing on the swings. I will show the playground that it is not forgotten, not neglected. And perhaps my childhood will unwrinkle its winter-apple face and cheer me on from some peekaboo corner.

*

The sky in my dream last night was an old wooden wagon full of rubble on the side of a steep hill. It was as if the earth had been bombed and its ruins were there. The only thing keeping the sky from rolling down and crashing here below was me. With all my strength I held it back, even though my arms and legs ached and burned. Wouldn't you think I could find something less strenuous to do in my dream?

*

It was only middle fall but the night was winter cold. Everywhere on the street people were bundled up, their faces asking, ``Life's not easy, but isn't this carrying things a bit far?''

Houses seemed to shiver, and their light looked blue. Steps led up and down, beginning and ending in darkness, as though benumbed. Fences stood warped in eerie lamplight, and the ground groaned with too many streets, like a lake under heavy ice.

Suddenly in this unseasonable, almost surreal landscape appeared the rabbi, bounding out of the synagogue and bringing its lucid warmth with him. He might have answered my questions, told me why I was out walking on such a night, what I might be searching for and if I would ever find it. But he was too happy to be asked questions; too close to answers of his own.

Seeing me, he smiled and said, ``I am studying tonight, David. I am deep into my books. But something reminded me of my little daughter at home. So I'm taking a break to go and give her a hug, tell her she is loved. Good night, David!''

Oh, what a difference a vibrant surprise can make!

*

Encountered a little boy four years old on my walk this evening. He smiled as he sat on his tricycle and said, very proud to have mastered the greeting, ``Hi!'' I replied, ``Hi!'' His smile broadened into a grateful recognition of our kindredness. Or was it simply a smile of love? When you're four, you love everybody. You know truths that even wise people don't, and with your smile you tell everything.

*

Already so many leaves have changed colors. The botanists have an explanation for this, but what if the seasons are, in truth, impoverished and gifted painters given work by God? Autumn, for example, could be a French Impressionist, showing us its unique vision of universal things, just as van Gogh did of shoes. It likes purity of beginnings, mystery of middles, and enthusiasm of endings. And it gets paid in fallen acorns and can sleep for nothing in the good old barn of poignancy.

*

It happened that my paternal grandfather was not too tall; he never had the requisite inches to overawe anybody. He used to complain about seeing everything from the shortstuff's point of view. There were even times in his youth when he wished that he could somehow be stretched.

But in his later years he accepted his shortness as he accepted the light blueness of his eyes and the smallness of his hands; it was simply a part of himself, not a punishment of some kind.

The only action a shorter person should take was not to let his face droop. Just imagine how much shorter he'd look if his face drooped to his knees!

*

Good night to the sky that never must fall. Good night to the beautiful birds on my wall. Good night to good people, both short and tall. Good night, my dears, good night to you all.

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