Moonrise

Since we moved my bed to the living room, putting it next to the big window overlooking the river, I have been able to watch the moon rise each night. Several days ago when I began observing, the moon was waxing gibbous until reaching full a couple of nights ago. (Though from my point of view it looked more full last night.) I have been staying up late, patiently waiting fifty minutes longer each night for moonrise. Tonight it rose a few minutes past ten. In any case, during this same period the leaves on the maples out back have been budding out, obscuring more & more of the sky, though not completely blocking it. When it has first come up over the river these last few nights, the moon has been the color of cream & very close. Sometimes I can see nearly the whole disk, but a few minutes later, screened by branches & leaves, only a bright fragment or two are apparent. If I wake very late in the night or in the early morning, I can see the moon's whole face high in the sky, clear of the maples. But then it appears distant & silvery. Cold. In Zen the moon is usually a symbol for realization (enlightenment) & we are warned "not to mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself," but even here we are in the realm of symbolic discourse. Realization is seeing the real, but the only way to mark this is with symbols, metaphors & narratives, the latter giving rise to the immense & immensely tricky koan literature, a substantial portion of which features the moon.[1. I am only a beginning student, but I think of koan as little chunks of anti-story meant to demolish our usual narratives, like anti-matter & matter.] So I have been watching the moon, seeing it only partially as it changes constantly through the watches of the night.[2. Last night I noticed a red glint in the southern sky: Mars, another symbol.] While I was writing that last sentence midnight came & went, moving me into the frame of a different day. The moon has reached the densest part of the maple canopy & I can see no glint or fragment at all. There is just Mars hanging there above the southern horizon. Let the moon stand for my realization, then. Ever-shifting & moving, sometimes bright, more often obscure & when bright, distant. But there it is, come back out of the blackness of the trees.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

2 thoughts on “Moonrise”

  1. My life partner spouse of 45 years (Richard Steger, a painter) as of this weekend put your painting watercolor collage LANDSCAPE WITH RAIN dated 2-27-15 in a place of honor since it came from you signed on the back by you for me at that time. We like it, value it, thank you with our eyes, again today. Ed

    1. I am grateful to Richard & to you, Ed. I have been amazed & heartened by the generosity of my friends. I sometimes feel as if I am beginning this journey with a host of artists, poets & Buddhists marching by my side.

      That the two of you value my painting means more to me than I can say.

      jd

Comments are closed.