A lovely evening was drawing to a close. We were enjoying dinner with friends at their riverfront home—wonderful company, good wine, and delicious food, all under a full moon. Just before saying goodnight, I stepped back out onto the deck alone to bask in the bright moonlight one last time as it shimmered across the water. It was stunningly beautiful—simple and pure beauty just waiting for me to drink it in.

In that moment, I remembered a poem from Gregory Orr’s collection, How Beautiful the Beloved.

Has the Moon Been Up There?

Has the moon been up there
All these nights
And I never noticed?

A whole week with my nose
To the ground, to the grind.

And the beloved faithfully
Returning each evening
As the moon.

Where have I been?
Who has abandoned whom?

One of the great joys of living in the country is being able to see the stars and the moon in the night sky. Here on the north shore of Massachusetts, summer is giving way to autumn and the night air is getting crisper. On clear nights, I love the last walk with the dogs before bed. The stars sparkle in the black sky. I greet the Little Dipper first as it seems to be just over my closest neighbor’s house. And if I walk just around the bend of the road and look around the trees, I find the Big Dipper. On some nights, the moon is so bright that I can see my shadow. In those moments, I feel like I am not just seeing the sky—I am somehow with the sky. I am a part of it, and it is a part of me. I feel held in that vast expanse of eternity.

There is something wonderfully reassuring to me about finding these constellations each night—constellations that I first learned to identify as a small child. It’s been more than fifty years since I first learned their names, yet those stars are still there in the sky every night to greet me. They are more than old friends—they feel to me like great protectors of the infinite vastness of time and space. And they remind me that, even though so much is changing in the world and the ground keeps shifting under our feet, there are also things that remain timeless. There are things that have always been with us and always will be. We just have to remember to notice them. They can help carry us through the challenges of radical change or loss.

In my former life as a classical concert singer, I loved singing the songs of Richard Strauss. One of my favorites, “Morgen,” begins with a beautifully poignant piano solo (or violin solo in the orchestral version). It’s as if time stops. And then quietly, as if not to interrupt, but rather to pick up the musical phrase in the middle, the first words emerge: Und morgen wird die Sonne wieder scheinen… The translation: And tomorrow the sun will shine again. Strauss’ musical setting of John Henry Mackay’s deeply touching poem creates the feeling that something profound has just happened. There is a sweet sadness and sense of acceptance—a reassurance that, no matter what has happened, another day will dawn.

As so much is breaking open, both in the world and in our personal lives, it can be helpful to remember that some things will always still be there. No matter what happens today, the sun will rise again tomorrow. No matter how great a loss we suffer, the stars are still in the sky at night. No matter how difficult our situations, the waves of the ocean continue coming into the shore. And no matter what is happening all around us, the moon still progresses through its cycle—from new moon through first quarter, half, and three-quarter, to the radiant beauty of the full moon. And then it slowly and reliably disappears from our view on its way back to the beginning of the cycle again.

If things are breaking open within and around you, you might feel like things that you have always counted on are now gone. In those moments, it’s easy to forget that beauty and wonder can still be found. We just have to remember to look for them.

No matter what is happening, the sun will rise again, the moon and stars will shine. Even when the day has been crazy or I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s amazing what can happen simply by walking the dogs at night under a starlit sky.

 

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