In a year of many, many walks, the sky featured prominently. Open sky provided a welcome balance to the confines of walls during months of sheltering in place. During the day, the sky is an abstract expressionist canvas, painting and repainting itself in blues and grays and whites, and often at the ends of days in brilliant golds and pastels, with great broad strokes in shifting shapes.
But it’s the night sky that offers true companionship. In the heavy glow of urban illumination, our sky is a desert for stars, so anything that shines brightly is almost certainly a planet. All through this past year, Saturn chased Jupiter across the southern sky, like a younger, smaller sibling pursuing an idolized older brother but never quite catching up — until December, when it sat smugly atop in triumphant convergence, jewel upon jewel, for a few precious nights in the afterglow of sunset.
Halfway through the year, Mars, imperial in its march directly overhead, joined the procession.
The moon, meanwhile, took turns dallying with each, and served as the best companion for walks home, alone in the dark — though frequently facing away, more interested in chasing the sun, until once a month it directs its round-faced gaze upon us.
Which inspired the following last week:
On the far side of day Walking home Late After a long talk with a friend Accompanied only by the moon, Full-faced, Present and presenting After several nights in hiding, Waxing, Waiting to bestow Its far-flung glow. Not the cold dead moon, Stuck, A slave to its orbit, But the living moon, The moon that exists In secret rendezvous. Not the same moon That kept my mother company During her last years on Earth Through her bedroom window Late at night or just before dawn, The moon she called “my buddy,” Which she also called my father Whom she believed was waiting for her Somewhere beyond the moon. This moon is close to that. It too mirrors the sun And dances in and out of view With thin clouds streaming past like steam From some percolating mystery, A moon that, Unaccountably, Has absorbed the departed Loves of my life Held there, aglow and warm Even now. This is the moon that keeps watch And keeps company On my short walk through the village, Past the lit windows of the living Down the long sidewalk to the place I sleep Not quite alone Thanks to this companion sailing overhead, Just 3 days’ journey away And so close to the eye That I never feel abandoned. Wordlessly walking Through the snow On the far side of day, This moon is my rear-view mirror, Wiped clean by tissue-thin clouds, So close Yet far enough removed to see its masters, Keeping its obedient vigil on Earth and Sun And keeping me company Through this village Of so many seasons That holds so much I love And so many, All living, Some only in memory. So much company Contained somehow In this moon of many dear faces In this village of many dear seasons In these eyes of many dear rememberings In this heart Of many dear loves.