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Moon Is Now and Then

Through a cold window

Through a cold window

I am home later. I was letting go of something, indulging in it for the last time, though I didn’t realize before. Walking down Cap Hill underneath the freeway’s roar, the long concrete ribbons held up seemingly by will and pink streetlight, I know something is finished. I feel certain. I said it before, but now I really am.

It’s night in the city: sidewalks empty, neon storefronts dark, traffic down to taxis and buses even at eight o’clock. Wednesday is wrapping up and everyone is home, having fled the cold. There is dinner, candy, whatever good the TV has. I find a business-card-sized hole in a construction barrier wall and see through to the calcified concrete walls and rusting iron spars holding them up against random dirt and weeds, some pastiche of urban decay and ruins of Nazi bunkers. Down the long Pioneer Street escalator to the bus. A kid in baggy pants and untied clodhopper Air Jordans practices throws, waiting for the bus.

The night is cold but not abandoned. Stellar Pizza is lightly attended, but open; a couple walks their two dogs; a woman in a Volvo wagon pauses in her right turn, nosing out a few inches every few seconds before idling into Airport Way. Air is cold, not as shockingly so as this morning’s low twenties, but cold enough.

Bring in the trash can, open the little metal door to find the one piece of junk mail. The cat demands her happiness. I heat up spaghetti and eat it by the window as the streetsweeper truck rumbles past. The cat is fascinated, and we watch the blinking lights and listen to the wire brushes spin.

Upstairs is dark, the city’s wan half-light through the windows. The office east window shines with a bluish luminescence. I go to it and see.

The picture, as usual, captures only the most base suggestion: a thin echo of the serene and distant light, the herringbone clouds a long woven plane light enough to see through, solid enough to walk on. Black roof peaks are far darker than the night is, windows dark, everyone inside hidden.

I know this Moon. Back in Canada wide fields ran away from the houses, just beyond the neighbors across the street. Running to the far end–a long run–would end in birch forest, and a little distance in a tumbling stream. I never went farther than the near side bank, the farther side impossibly distant somehow. The stream was a barrier beyond which was the endless North. Santa was up there, somewhere, and the long endless cold.

Winter nights the Moon came, obscured by clouds like these, mottling its light over those fields. Trees bowed in the wind, rustling with leaves or silent white and black bones. I could hear the North, feel it through the window. North was where the Moon was, somehow down to Earth. If you could walk to the end of North you could walk the light right on to the Moon. Nothing to stop you out there where everything was wild, where you would be alone if you tried.

Wherever I have found myself I have seen that Canada night with its Moon and clouds. The Moon doesn’t age and clouds have no connection to time, not really. They spread and merge and entwine their same shapes, dazzling and confusing us that such beauty should come from a few simple rules for pressure and temperature. That Moon is always behind these clouds, somewhere, and someone is comforted by the clear light, the removed glow. As you finish things they are a constant, and it is good to have both at the same time.

 

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