Blowin’ In: Whole of the Moon

Blowin’ In: Whole of the Moon
By Susan Mangan

On the grey rock of Cashel the mind’s eye

Has called up the cold spirits that are born

When the old moon is vanished from the sky

And the new still hides her horn.

(“The Double Vision of Michael Robartes”

By William Butler Yeats)

I have always wanted to spend the night on an island. I longed to feel the pull of the moon on the ocean’s tide, the chill of wet sand beneath a midnight sky creeping through the soft bits of my toes that have never seen the sun. There, in the quiet of my mind it is always the midnight hour and I stand transfixed, bewitched by the draw of the moon.

Last summer, my chance arrived. I walked along a dark midnight hill rising above the strand that sweeps along the shores of the island of Innishturk. The moon was full that night and I never feared the loose rocks on the tarmac, my footing was solid and my heart was still. I looked out over the water, oddly calm that warm summer’s night, and thought about my life’s journey, what brought me to this place so far from the busy streets of Chicago, and settled my hand in the firm grip of my husband’s palm.

In times of trouble, I always turn toward Nature: Her breezes that soothe and Her winds that inspire. I look to the height of Her trees and the artistry of Her branches, how some twigs intertwine and twist reflecting the trials of the old, and the sweet green of fledgling spring leaves that speak of the young.

Some years present challenges and I stand in contemplation at my bedroom window. The entire house is at long last asleep. If I close my eyes, I can hear the gentle breathing and quiet snores of my family. I alone am unsettled.

The light of the moon shines too brightly through the linen shades of my window. I stand at the glass panes and breathe. Inhaling energy from the night sky, I feel at once alive, but alone. My fears, hopes, and unquiet dreams are illuminated by the pearl-glow of the moon.

When I was a baby, I arrived too early. I had to spend over a month in the hospital’s incubator, away from my mother’s touch, like a chick kept warm by an artificial light fixed above a man-made nest in a barn. The day my mother brought me home from the hospital was the day the astronauts of Apollo 11 landed on the moon. On that night, exactly 50 years ago, my mother held me in her arms and crooned, “Look at the night sky baby girl, men are walking on the moon.”

Since that time, I have always felt drawn to the power of the moon. Steadfast, the light of the moon has lit my first kiss and given me comfort during life’s trials. The moon offered me companionship when I was a new mother and held my wailing infants during interminable nights. I always felt a comradeship with mothers unseen who stood nursing their babies beneath that exact same moon.

When my husband’s father died, he and his brother brought their mother back to Ireland. There they worshipped with friends and grieved with family. One night my husband called me far into the Irish night. He was staying at a house that looked out over the Atlantic Ocean. The sky was so dark he said and the stars so bright, but nothing compares to the light of the moon and the path it paves across the ocean’s waves.

He asked if I could see that same moon. “Yes,” I replied, “I can.”  Even though my American sky was bright with the light of an early summer evening, I could see my husband’s moon and knew that when his Irish sun peered over the horizon, that same moon would be lighting my midnight sky. 

Years later, we held hands and stepped over a rocky tarmac, inhaling the breeze from the Atlantic’s encroaching tide, and watched the moon descend into the dark, rolling waves. That same moon held fast to his astronauts 50 years ago, much like my mother cradled the raw innocence of her child, who would later grow into a woman and hold her husband’s hand, vulnerable in the face of such power, unknowing of the future, defenseless to the primal pull of the moon.

*Susan holds a Master’s Degree in English from John Carroll University and a Master’s Degree in Education from Baldwin-Wallace University. She may be contacted at [email protected].

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