First thing in the morning, the sun was rising while the full moon was setting. The sunrise was beautiful to be sure, and for a moment, I felt torn between the two. But only for a moment.
I admire the sun and all the beautiful performances it puts on, dancing across the day stage of the sky, playing with the clouds from sunrise to sundown. But I can’t look directly at it without being blinded. I can’t see in the glare, so I miss things. And if I stay too long in it, I get burned. I end up connecting with the clouds instead of the source of their light, because I know I can never get close to it.
When faced with the choice, it didn’t take long to reason it out. I knew I’d have more time with the sun that day. And I quickly realized I’d have far more opportunities for sunrises than I would for moments where the full moon was departing at the same time like this.
So…the moon. Ah, the moon; I’d made my decision. I turned to face him, a mysterious man I’ve always been attracted to, but with whom I’d only recently made friends. He has a singular, striking beauty. And there he was in that moment, showing his wide open face.
You’d think he put on a fairly standard show each month, colors limited by his outside light source, because he gives off none of his own. I always imagined him as having just a few faces, a few phases. Up at night, down in the morning. Once in awhile I’d see him in the middle of the day, and call him Paper Moon. But I wouldn’t let myself ponder his presence. ‘Thumbnail Moon’ was my nickname for him when he was crescent. Sure, I’ll admit, when he was full a few times? I let my guard down, and howled at Barton Springs Pool, with the others that loved him.
If I looked at him for more than a few moments, I always found myself filled with the ache of longing for something I’d likely never experience. I was envious of the fortunate few who got to approach him in the past and jealous of the even fewer who got to touch. It made my heart pound to imagine, so I resisted these thoughts, and I put him out of my mind.
But in my new life, I am committed to the pleasure of focusing on what attracts me. And one night, there he was. So I looked. And I gave in to my attraction.
By learning how to take photos when he’s around, I slowly started getting to know him. And for the past few months, I’ve been indulgently enthralled with him. Perhaps you’ll understand why, and see what a perfect fit he is for my life, if I spend the time telling you who he is to me, and what I’ve learned from him.
There is so much more to him than I imagined. Even though he’s closer to me, he’s not as predictable as the sun. He doesn’t blind me by shining in my face. Instead, he plays a gentle game, always delightfully fun. And I find it deliciously tantalizing that he’s going to require some time to get to know.
Maybe he doesn’t get to be the one who determines when it’s day or night, but he rises and sets on his own terms.
And while he’s at it, he changes what he looks like, too.
Sometimes he’s out in the middle of the day, split in half and seemingly transparent.
Other times he glows so bright at night, I can turn off my headlights on the last few roads home and still see my way clearly, despite the shadows he casts through the trees.
I like when he seems to wrap clouds around himself like a warm brownish blanket.
A few days ago, he looked like he was exhaling as he was falling to the ground.
I enjoy him when he’s misty mysterious, barely showing his face, and appearing in spurts in my photos, as if he’d hopped across the sky.
I even love him when he’s moody, scowling behind dark clouds. And of course I understand completely when he disappears during a storm.
And more than anything, my heart skips a beat, when I catch him, as I did in this photo. There he was, kissing the sky goodbye, sneaking out like a blushing lover, in the first light of dawn.
One of the things I love about the moon is that I can see not only who he is, but what else he illuminates with his gentle glow. Sometimes it takes a bit to see what he’s willing to show me, but if I look long enough with my eye, or my camera, it always appears. What shows up is always interesting and often quite surprising.
I value how, most of the time, he uses his light to enhance other things around him, rather than overpowering them. He doesn’t force his way through things, or burn what stands in his way. In fact, often his light makes ordinary things shine with a unique beauty I wouldn’t have noticed they had, without him highlighting it for me.
Occasionally he’s so bright, he washes out the surrounding stars, and I can’t see much else. But I love those moments, too, because he shares the stage with other things that walk out in front of him, using his brightness to create silhouettes of things like clouds or birds. And it grants me an opportunity to play along, because I can put what I’d like to see in front of him…branches, or maybe buildings…and I can see just their shape.
I photographed him once recently, when he politely shared the sky with Venus. They looked like they were walking together towards the horizon, illuminating everything around them on their way out. What a gentleman he was; he let her go first. I grinned at that thought.
Getting to know him has opened up a beautiful new world for me. At first, I thought perhaps I would read about him to learn more; I like to learn. But isn’t he, by revealing his mysteries slowly teaching me not to race to the destination? By learning by observing him, I can enjoy the journey.
Then I thought perhaps I would start a journal to analyze him; I like to understand. Where does he rise in the sky, what does he look like each time, when does he show his face? I like answers. But why analyze him and take away all the mystery?
So I decided to just leave things as they are, to go at their own pace. Like I’m learning to appreciate in other areas of my life, I’m going to sit back and appreciate the mystery of him. I will delight in the memorable moments, like I had taking the photo at the top of this post…moments when he gently, slowly, patiently and sometimes surprisingly, reveals himself and his world to me.
May I say more about the photo at the top of this piece? I’d gotten up early to see him leave with the rise of the sun. I was pretty sure he was going to be there, because I’d had the delightful surprise of seeing him there the previous day. And there he was. Sure he’s mysterious, but I told myself perhaps he couldn’t resist an encore, knowing how much I’d enjoy seeing him again.
It became an easy choice to turn my back on the sun. I stood facing him, with all my attention. I held my breathe, hoping with my whole heart the bird flying all around would do me the favor of crossing his handsome face before he set. As you can see he did, and fully prepared, I took his picture. And then I took more, enjoying each moment I had with him immensely, as he gracefully and quietly said goodbye for the day, allowing the sun to finish blazing its way onstage.
That was a treat of a morning I won’t soon forget. Right at midnight last night, I found out this photo is the second one of my moon photos that won a Moonlight of The Day feature on Instagram. While I was sitting there basking in the fun glow of it, the brightness of the parallels between my life and the moon rose in my awareness like a full moon coming up over the horizon.
I realized that while I’m slowly getting to know the moon, and learning how to photograph him, that I’m also learning the value of slowing down and paying attention to other things in my life that I’m attracted to and care about. Doing this in both areas is revealing things to me that I was moving too fast before to see.
Waiting patiently for revelations, coming to slow understandings…learning, for the first time, how to walk, or even just stand still in the face of it, instead of running all the time…the graceful beauty, the gentle intimacy, the warmth without getting burned…the explorations that are possible when there is no fear of a harsh light glaring down…have all been extraordinary parts of the path I’ve been on lately.
And I’ve been stunned by the generosity of others willing to reflect light in the way the moon does, so I am able to see existing silhouettes or have an opportunity to create my own. Those moments, these lessons, that generosity, like the moment I took this photo, are unforgettable.
My Man In The Moon has been gently and beautifully revealing what’s there for me to see. When I believe, and I patiently wait, it’s definitely worth it.
What a perfect symbol. As it slowly reveals itself to me, I see more brightly every day how the treasure of my new life, and the wonderful people in it, are even deeper and richer from the moments spent waiting. It’s always interesting, often surprising, and definitely worth it.
~ cj 2013.11.10
As you can imagine, I have many more photos of the moon than this. I hope you enjoy the ones I’ve selected here. Some of them were mentioned above, in this piece.