Many years ago I worked with a lovely person named Anna and she gave me a most precious gift. The gift she gave has been with me and has entertained and awed me over the span of more that 25 years. At times I've share the gift with others, but all the years and sharing hasn't diminished the gift or my gratitude for it.
Anna was wise and worldly and she had about 35 years on me. I loved her grey-white bob and the way she'd wear "pin curls" near her face, and how she'd sometimes forget to take them out until after she'd arrived at the clinic. Anna had been a nurse and decided late in life to become a counselor. I thought Anna had been wise in the switch. Though I knew her to be a healing force, I could not imagine her in the brightly lit hospitals doing anything with the kind of routine precision that nursing might require. I could, however, and did sometimes imagine how she might have been with her patients...pausing to be still with suffering and to hold space for hope and to pray. In our clinic Anna worked with the clients most impacted by chronic and severe mental illness and many holidays would find her joining some of them for a meal at the boarding home where they lived. I admired how she always poured into the planning, preparing and pausing for these meals with a sweet earnestness and joy that deeply honored both her dinner partners and the ritual of breaking bread together.
Though Anna lived very humbly, she loved beauty. She encouraged me to take watercolor classes with her. She wrote poetry...and read it. She introduced me to Rumi and Mary Oliver and urged me, at times, to put down the counseling manuals and my text books and pick up beautiful works of fiction. She knew I loved words, and some mornings I'd find a touching quote, handwritten, waiting for me on my desk. When eating at our house one time she paused, after chopping the vegetables for salad, and sheepishly asked if we had "a bowl with bit more charm" than the stainless mixing bowl I'd given her to serve it in...spoiler alert, we didn't. Sometimes now when I see a beautiful bowl anywhere or use a "charming one" of my own I pause and think of Anna and smile.
She was eccentric and as open as the vast New Mexico sky, that she'd urged me to notice. Once, under Anna's influence, my husband and I drug lawn chairs out into a dark field, under that big big night sky and the three of us experienced the most magnificent display of sacred stillness and starlit beauty punctuated by giggles and gasps as streaking meteors blazed across the bedazzled blackness. It so overwhelmed me that I weep now recalling it. It was during a different still dark night when Anna gave me the gift of an introduction. Some night before or after that meteor showered extravaganza, she introduced me to the Moon. Of course I had seen the moon on many previous evenings, but I had never paused under it long enough to become acquainted.
That night she had me pause and notice the curve of the crescent and implored me to hold my hands moon-ward, as if reaching up for a celestial hug. She asked me to notice if the curve of the outer rim rested in my right cupped palm or my left. On this night the moon best sat with it's ball shaped bottom in my right hand...with it's "missing" bit on the top left. And this, Anna told me, meant that we were there under the light of the waxing ("growing" to fullness) moon. As I began to pause and notice and reach up to the sky anytime I found myself under the light of the moon, my understanding and fondness of it grew. I began to anticipate that when the moon was waning (becoming smaller) the round-ball edge would more appear to be hanging from my cupped left hand, instead of sitting...and the "missing" bit would be the bottom right. Sometimes with hands lifted heavenward I felt a sense of deep intimacy, a fullness and sweetness of knowing hidden things...of beautiful things hidden in plan sight.
How had I marched under that beautiful changing moon on so many previous occasions and not noticed it's subtle dance? How had I not paused and noticed...and what other beauty was I marching by, head down? What a gift Anna had given me...I am forever thankful.
Let's pause together now with a favorite poem...I know Anna would approve.
With That Moon Language
Everyone you see, you say to them
Of course you do not do this out loud:
Someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this,
This great pull in us
Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,
With that sweet moon
What every other eye in this world
Is dying to
May you breathe more deeply, laugh more often and feel more at home in your own moonlit life.