Longest night, lost moon.

December 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm (hedonism, natural and unnatural history, the sky gods)

I do believe in ritual cleanliness. Of course, I also do quite a lot of work while covered in entrails dragged from the depths, using a knife still covered in scales and bile and blood and gods know what else, or with garden dirt so thick under my fingernails I’ll never manage to scrub it off. However: when time allows, I do enjoy a nice bath beforehand. It’s good to give the chi a good exfoliating. Even more than the ritual bathing, however, the dandy in me looks forward to the ritual moisturising. I stand before the gods anointed, vanilla and almond scented, like I’m about to go on a date with the sky.

And I was.

I woke up in the middle of the night and put on my winter things like garb: a knitted lace scarf, cabled mittens, thick socks, a warm woollen hooded sweater, corduroys, a coat I bought in France to keep me safe in Iceland, fish boots, my beloved bear hat, and my keys. I locked my door behind me, groped in the dark down the stairs in my little outhouse of a mudroom, crunched over gravel, and spun in a circle, looking for the moon. I found it directly over my house, all but the tiniest sliver of silver swallowed by a scarlet serpent, a shooting star rushing under it, as if it wasn’t fantastic enough already.

This solstice, for me, more than most, has been a dark one. Terrible Things Have Happened. They carry the seeds of great good in them, hints that the light might now start to grow, although we daren’t say as much.

This solstice was so dark that even the moon was swallowed up. But. If you were to stand on the moon and watch the eclipse from there, the earth, of course, would have been ringed in fire. NASA had my favourite write-up foretelling the event, and although I know them to lapse into poetry with some frequency, it still surprises and delights me when it happens. From the moon, they said, you’d see every sunrise and every sunset all at once.

And this eclipse… forgive me, I know I’m making a cliché of myself, but I have a difficult time thinking of these alignments as anything other than an orgy. I imagine the cosmic bodies circling one another, curious, for time unfathomable, and once in a great while getting one another drunk and touching only briefly, spinning off again not to speak of it much until, inevitably, it happens again.

So. I stood on a bridge beneath this red and darkened moon. I caught its reflection in the water beneath me, and I caught it also in the cup that I held in my hands, from which I drank. Directly beneath me was the entirety of the world. And directly beneath that was the sun. Turtles. Turtles, all the way down.

I meant to do something under it. I’m not sure I’d decided what, yet, but I’d intended to set my roots down and my branches up. All I could do was watch. I’ve met few things that demanded and deserved simple worship so thoroughly.

How many thousands of us looked to the sky last night? How many of the stars, diamonds set around a ruby, watched the moon and the earth and the sun kiss and twittered and gossiped?

The serpent swallowed the moon and then gave it back to us, a perfect shining egg. Now the light can start to grow. Where I live, however, the darkest of the year passes only to offer us up to the terrible cold. Good luck, friends. Stay warm and brave.

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