Nostalgic Longings and an Abundance of Life

By Bob Grindle

It seems a thousand things that we know we should be doing sprout quickly in the composted remains of the time we all promise ourselves we’ll use wisely…and then life beckons. A star twinkles into view as dusky evening drifts in from the east and we pause to dream a wish; the smell of freshly cut grass invites a deep inhale of that nostalgic and luscious scent and we sit down for a moment’s distraction as we enjoy the tidy look of our handiwork; or perhaps the noise of human activity suddenly gives way to the sensory art and music of the world around us—birds’ singing, flowers and shrubs blooming, perhaps the sound of water rushing or cascading over rocks, aromas drifting, then mixing with the breezes whispering through trees and an absolute symphony of insect buzzing and clicking and chirping and humming create an architecture of sound and beauty that speaks to the common soul in us all, and we lose a moment to the pleasure of a relaxing reverie. As I sit down surrounded by the almost indescribably lush, soft, multi-shaded green grass that is the lawn on the sunny south side of our barn here on a south-facing hillside in Hampton, Connecticut, I look up into the quickly darkening sky. The first bright stars are twinkling into view, and I smile to imagine our address in the universe: Earth, Solar System, Milky Way…first the dog stars, Sirius (canis major) and Procyon (canis minor,) then Vega and the red stars, Betelgeuse, Arcturus and Aldebaran, as the night sky comes gradually, relentlessly to life.  It is at moments like this, sitting alone, if only for an instant, a solitary traveler on a planet positively bursting at the seams with life, that I feel most satisfyingly alive: not insignificantly small; not smugly superior; just delighted to be part of the crew on this singular journey.  

Certainly, there are broken tools to repair (always will be,) community commitments to keep, household projects to complete, animals to care for, weather to deal with, endless family matters to wrangle and daily chores that compete with the time it takes to restore one’s connection with the world around us, but I often think of these short interludes of reflection as a sort of refueling stop. A way to reignite the imagination and get on with the excitement of living. 

May will be a month not only to fulfill April’s promise of flowers, freshly restarted gardens,  greening landscapes and parades, but also of a parade of planets across the early morning skies. Beginning May 3rd as the waning crescent Moon fades into the sunrise, on each of four subsequent mornings the Moon will pair with different planets. Looking above the East-Southeast just-before-sunrise horizon on the 3rd, you’ll see Saturn to the left of the Moon, then on the 4th you’ll see the Moon between Saturn and Mars (Mars is the red planet to the left of the Moon,) on the 5th the Moon is between Mars, on the right, and Mercury. Finally, on the 6th, a whisper thin crescent Moon sits above and to the left of Mercury. 

With just a little bit of luck in the wee early hours before morning on Sunday and Monday May 5th and 6th you may be able to catch a meteor shower as our planet passes through the left-over debris from Halley’s comet back in 1986. The Aquariid Meteor Shower is not known to be a very productive source of shooting stars, but this year there will be little to no moonlight to hide the show and we might just get lucky. The meteors will appear to radiate from the Aquarius constellation high in the eastern sky and should not be too obstructed by treetops. 

Sitting here beneath the sky and on top of the Earth, it is hard to fully appreciate the full scale of our existence. In the Milky Way Galaxy alone more than 400 billion stars spread across more than 600,000 trillion miles are busy converting matter into starlight, and there are nearly 2 trillion more galaxies spread across the Cosmos. Here on Earth where matter evolved into a mind numbing galaxy of life forms and ultimately grew into consciousness, it is worth noting that along the way far more species have gone extinct than exist today…and as the sky grows more abundant with stars and a chill descends to remind me that April in Connecticut can get cold quickly, I head back into the house where warmth and light await. 

A Comfortable Space at the Bottom of the Sky

By Bob Grindle

There is a certain beauty to the grey, damp, chill and almost claustral organic richness of an early spring rainfall in our small New England corner of the planet, and the mesmeric patter of raindrops falling a few thousand feet creates a magical, rhythmic, almost musical backdrop to even the most basic of our human efforts…the sky plays with one’s senses and a simple walk becomes an adventure as the shapeshifting landscape droops and sheds and drips and pools, as if the very air around us has been torn open and this spill of atmospheric plasma that brings and sustains life as surely as it brings flooding simply will not be staved…the same sky that just a few days ago treated us to an achingly beautiful, crisp blue canvas filled with towering cumulus proof that water is truly Nature’s most gifted architect…the same sky that surrendered its Sun-fueled day-lit clarity to a crescent Moonscape gem of a night with brilliant Jupiter just a whisper away from the Moon, that sky now rains down with a drenching persistence born of seasonal changes that span the epochs of Earth’s tortuous relationship with life. A small wet rabbit darts across the path in front and I recall reading that after only three weeks wild bunnies leave the nest to strike out on their own. A rabbit’s tortuous relationship with life!

While my comfort with a rainy day unwinds back more than 6 decades to memories of playing around and exploring the lakes, streams, rivers, woodlands and even the alleyways and empty lots of my youth, I can’t recall when I realized that even during the darkest, gloomiest and rainiest of mid-days the Sun, and with it a clear sky, were somewhere up there, just above the clouds. Some years later, as an airborne technician in the US Air Force, after studying the science of meteorology, it seemed obvious and easy to understand. But there are still times when it is easy to get lost in our limited tropospheric world at the bottom of the sky and feel the need to take a walk in the rain and rinse away the complications of, as William Wordsworth noted more than 200 years ago, a world that is too much with us.

In about a week one of the Cosmos’ more poetic events will unfold, whether there are clouds overhead or not, but if the sky is clear as the Moon slides slowly, soundlessly between the Earth and the Sun and this mid-day eclipse unfolds in the early afternoon of Monday, April 8th, bunnies will pause, bees will be momentarily stranded, Venus will shine in the early afternoon and many millions of human beings will mind the endless cautionary reminders not to look directly at the Sun. Imagine, for a moment that we were part of an ancient culture with no sense of the scientific explanation for why the Sun slowly disappears, or perhaps even more alarming on a cloudy afternoon the sky suddenly grows dim then black as night.

Throughout history eclipses have been wrongly accused of being a disruption of the natural order and most ancient societies developed spiritual explanations to help them understand the inexplicable. Chinese records going back more than 4000 years suggest that a celestial dragon devoured the Sun from time to time and only loud and raucous celebrations with lots of drum beating and people yelling would scare away the dragon and save the Sun. Since the loud ruckus always worked and the Sun returned, the legend stood the test of time. Though cultures varied and their geographic locations spanned the globe, the legends all bore resemblance to one another…Indian, Central Asian, West African, Native American, Pacific Islander, Egyptian, Greek, Incan, it made no difference…something was eating or stealing or hiding the Sun and only a society-wide festival effort of noise and music and sometimes sacrifice could save us all. According to Native American Choctaw legend, a mischievous black squirrel gnawing on the Sun is the cause of eclipses. Like the Chinese dragon, the squirrel must be frightened away by the clamor and yells of the event›s human witnesses. Ojibwa and Cree peoples have a story that a boy named Tcikabis sought revenge on the Sun for burning him, and despite the protestations of his sister, he caught the Sun in a snare trap, causing an eclipse. Various animals tried to release the Sun from the trap, but only the lowly mouse could chew through the ropes and set the Sun back on its path. 

Interestingly, from the Native American Navajo, perspective, eclipses are thought to be a time of renewal and a manifestation of the cyclical relationship between the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth. The old traditional knowledge of the Navajo people recognizes that it is dangerous to look directly at the Sun. Navajo elders strongly instruct their community to go inside the hogan (their traditional dwelling) during an eclipse to ensure people don’t look up at the Sun. Traditional Navajo people sit quietly and in reverence, a practice that is grounded on their deeply held respect for the cosmic order. Obviously, this was a culture that felt comfortable in their corner of the world…so much has been lost.

Hopefully, good weather will prevail on April 8th, between 2 pm and about 4 pm and we will all get the chance to enjoy one of our Solar system’s more audacious moments. Be well, seek comfort in your surroundings and enjoy the delightful colors and amazing smells that arrive on April’s wings.

Looking Up:

Catnaps, Landfills and Soul

By Bob Grindle

The barn is cold this early afternoon in mid-February…it’s a damp and chilly sort of gloominess that can settle in when the lights are off, and the sky is gray. The daylight filtering through the windows of this earth-floored building seems tired and lacking in the energy that bright sunlight usually brings. Still, resting here on a couple of stacked hay bales watching the snow fall, charmingly framed by an open door that faces our warmly-lit house on this day before Valentine’s Day, I feel a cozy, dream-like sense of comfortable satisfaction…almost as if the goats are back. Sitting here staring at the date ‘November 1981’ carved into the cement window ledge, I am transported back to that summer when we built this still unfinished building more than 40 years ago. What triggers our mind to replay these episodic memories with such clarity? …a smell?… a sound?… a vision?… a pattern in, or atmosphere of a place?… Perhaps something less familiar; harder to quantify, an ether of the place?… the ancient civilizations might have offered such an explanation. Something so ethereal and yet so familiar that I wonder how far across a dream can we travel before the curtain rises and we tumble off the proscenium into a reality that challenges our sense that moments and places and things have soul. Many of the indigenous peoples that inhabited the western hemisphere in the millennia before they encountered Europeans had developed spiritual beliefs that viewed the Earth as the mother to all things, and since all creatures and plants depended upon Mother Earth for water, food, shelter and clothing, it followed that we are all bound together as kin. History took another path though and civilization has drawn us away from our roots in the planet.

We built this barn in 1981. Sitting here on the hay, my feet up on the old milking stand as the snow falls, I close my eyes, lay my head back against the stone wall and can see my wife Linda’s concrete smudged cheeks, our 3 year old son struggling with stones bigger than his age, a couple of near-teen nephews who spent that summer of 1981 with us so my sister could deal with a  crumbling marriage and, of course, the cute-as-a-button Nubian goat kid we had just bought locally that would set us on a journey of milking, morning and night, for more than 30  years. In less than the span of a catnap, I relive an entire summer, building a barn that we needed but could not afford…so many trips back and forth to the Hampton/Scotland dump, like some sort of reverse landfill, to scavenge virtually everything but the concrete…we made it affordable. Yes, this place has soul. 

As the Earth turns slowly eastward the afternoon cools, the pulse of the wind quickens and the snowfall slows. I open my eyes. The decades old images and sounds of a temporal lobe in replay mode dissolve quickly into the damp, chill atmosphere of the afternoon and are quickly, safely shelved again in the vaulted recesses of my brain. Heading back to the house, I start composing this piece for the March issue of Neighbors knowing that the brief reverie of how the barn got built will stick with me long enough that I won’t have to stop right away and write it down. Stopping to gather eggs at the chicken house, I turn to look back at the barn as a fleeting thought occurs about whether the swallows will return this year…last year’s nearly unending rain seemed to reduce the success of their nesting…and I feel a certain excitement to think about the coming season. It will feel good to step into the warmth of the house. Yes, this moment has soul.

There has been so little sun these last six weeks that I am beginning to think of the night sky as something of a pen-pal. Even the dawn and dusk transitions have mostly been cloudy with mist, rain or snow present or threatening and this early evening is no exception…as I enter the house I kick the snow off my boots, turn to look to the east where Orion is rising, along with his hunting companions Canis Minor and Canis Major as they chase Taurus across a cloud shrouded cosmic stage. Oh well, there are clear skies to come and perhaps April’s eclipse will dazzle us all. For the time being, though, March is on it’s way with its own streaming service at no charge…Venus has vacated our morning skies, to be replaced by Saturn and Mars, Jupiter will remain in the night sky until Venus reappears late in April as the evening star outshining Jupiter.

If evening skies are agreeable on March 13th, one of the month’s more dramatic sights will be a very brilliant Jupiter and a waxing crescent Moon hanging high over the western horizon about an hour after sunset…that would be nearly 8 pm because, yes, daylight savings time begins Sunday morning, March 10th! And just a week later Spring arrives on the 19th of March. No matter the uncertain vagaries of Spring in southern New England, you can feel our delightful landscape peeling up and out of its layers of winter-time slumber and calling out to each of us to shake off the dust of last year’s not quite completed projects (perhaps finish shingling the barn) and find the energy and joy that comes with the changing of the season. Be well and enjoy the coming change of the Spring equinox, and if there’s a place where you enjoy peeling back the layers that modern life often weighs us all down with, spend a little extra time there.

Sky-Dancing Clouds and Egyptian Cosmology

By Bob Grindle
The early Christmas Eve conversation with an old friend who happened to stop by the house reached escape velocity before either of us realized what was happening. It had started innocently enough with a bit of the reminiscing this season is so fabled for…the winter wonderland memories and fantasies that so many of our generation hightail it south to avoid but seem so abundantly to populate our recall of the good times…once upon a time! We hadn’t seen each other in several months and after a bit of catch-up, a sharp comment from this longtime friend about losing a son to right-wing conspiracy theories and what sort of world will our generation be leaving to our children and grandchildren spilled out onto the conversational floor as if a secret compartment of some sort had suddenly broken open. My own sense of optimism for the long-term survival of our species exists despite deep and troubling concerns about homo sapiens’ flaws, so after a couple of quick conversational k-turns we said our goodbyes and merry Christmases.

Our son, daughter-in-law and grandson recently set out to a nearby tree farm to cut their annual Christmas tree and the picture they took of that tiny, short-lived moment in time reminds me of why hope for the future is every bit as much alive as it has ever been…and why somewhere in even the smokiest, bluesiest, jazz corner of the saddest lament we might have ever imagined, there is a spark of human spirit that refuses to grow cold.

The mid-afternoon walk we set off on across this late December landscape feels almost derelict. How did things get to be such a mess? We have lived on this hillside long enough to have met the beast that breathes in nature’s dishevelment. The forces that haunt the lyrical distractions of wind and rain and atmospheric banshees wailing through the darkening, leafless and sodden forests of our scoured and moss-strewn bit of glacial retreat are as old as Earth, as fresh as dawn and as familiar as the sound of our own breathing. Does the swirling crowd of sky dancing clouds celebrate our success at surviving this tempest-tossed slip-slide called life or simply revel in their superior Cosmology—Egyptian-like, perhaps—understanding there is divinity in everything, from seasonally suspended milkweed para-seeds to rain fueled hillside trail washouts and mummified ash trees shedding their decay like woodland zombies?

Across the saturated wetland that just a few months ago we called a lawn, this afternoon’s walk leads us downhill toward the naturally occurring springs that have never failed to supply our water, sweet and pure, in more than a half century of tending to and mending the wounds and fractures of this soggy hillside. More pathways beckon but are littered with a feud of fallen trees and branches that the twilight casts in ghostly and ghastly shapes and shadows and caution calls a halt to our ramble. We head back toward the house as the distant drone of the generator chuckles at our pioneering fantasies. Fifty years ago, after the December 1973 ice storm—recently wed and having just moved into our first house—without a generator or a care in the world, we reveled in the quiet beauty of an eastern Connecticut hillside we had just met. As the sound of the generator grows nearer and the flickering lights of the house offer their welcoming glow, it occurs to me that the universe keeps offering our species the same lessons over, and over and over again…in different ways perhaps…I hope we master them soon. 

The wind is increasing a bit as dark settles in and these raw and bone rattling days when the rain seems almost eternal make our human nesting practices seem worth the effort. Something about the dark woods all around us make the thought of January’s full Wolf Moon seem even more chilling than normal and our pace toward the house quickens. I nod to Orion and Taurus as they begin to twinkle into view and smile to think that Jupiter will strut its stuff across the night sky as the Cosmos—in its cold, dark and implacable way—expands violently without a sound.

Back in the house the light of the Moon is enchanting and thoughts of sound and fury fade in the face of evening chores. Despite concerns about the future of our species, I feel encouraged that the hard work of fixing things is in our own hands and that is a good thought to wrap up a late afternoon walk as 2023 comes to an end. Enjoy the coming season when our New England landscape rests up for it Spring Fling. 

The Moon on the Breast of the New-Fallen Snow

By Bob Grindle

This evening grew dark with light-switch suddenness…and as I sit looking out the window into a gloomy, damp and chill Thanksgiving eve, I can almost hear the childhood refrain, “over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go…” playing somewhere in the back of my head; reminding me of a time when nothing, not even the raw, blustery and gray weather that is so common this time of year could spoil the welcoming and warming excitement of the holidays. It was a time when the comfort of people getting together, cooking and sharing food, enjoying the companionship of  telling the stories of how the year had unfolded and listening to each other’s plans for the coming year felt genuine and could fill a child’s head with a sense of enthusiasm for growing up. It was a time of hope.

As I get up from my nostalgic drift and head out to do evening chores, the lights in the barn offer a sort of warming promise despite the marrow-chilling rawness that late November is so good at. The oddly satisfying crunch of straw and shavings underfoot and the rich aroma and sound of animals eating timothy pellets make the barn feel deceptively warm despite the early and unseasonable cold. The texture of the moment is almost as filled with promise and hope and a satisfying sense of “all is well” as the memories of growing up that I left back at the desk just moments ago.There is certain self-centeredness though, that can weave its way into our human recollections of the way things were…into the stories we recall or recalibrate. Perhaps our brain’s effort to clean up the frayed edges, replace the missing pages, or more, that have suffered the unrelenting wear and corrosive weathering of time.  

A loud but distant crack of a gunshot clears my head of idling memories. The sounds of hunter’s guns and members of the ‘Fin’ practicing at the range that echo across this narrow valley are mostly still now as the day wanes, and the narrow valley that snakes its way between Parrish and Beaver Hill to the south and Clark Hill to the north has quieted for the day. The time when our pond laden, brook laced, boggy, and gently undulating landscape through Haven & Hartford Railroad on its daily whistle-stop, milk-can and orchard basket pick-up and delivery schedule to Boston is long past. Instead, the Connecticut Airline Trail State Park is a Johnny-come-lately repurposing of the 19th century hand and machine hewn and blasted railroad bed, and is a welcome newcomer to the many hikers and bikers and horseback riders who frequent the trail.

As I walk back to the house darkness is at hand and the wind has picked up…late after-noon is feeling a bit like pre-winter. No matter the chill in the air, though, the sound of the wind singing through the towering stand of Norway spruce at the back of the garden chills the imagi-nation and cuts through human vanity, whispering that whether or not we understand it, our fate is intertwined with the world we live in and we ignore it at our peril. The night will be a clear one, and despite a few snowflakes in the air the nearly full Moon is at the eastern horizon and Jupiter announces the start of the show. The sky beckons

The skies of December are not known for being viewer friendly, with bluster and cold and occasional bursts of sudden winter snow, but with only a razor thin lunar crescent that will set early on the evening of December 13-14, this year’s Geminid meteor shower in the eastern sky should be the best of the year…a dark sky early and the promise of as many as a hundred meteors an hour. Plus, the Geminids start earlier than most. By 9 pm, Gemini has risen high enough in the east that meteors can be seen without having to stay up till 2 or 3 am on the 14th. The show really gets impressive though when Gemini is higher in the sky later at night, with brighter trails and longer tracks across the night. While you’re waiting for those shooting stars, enjoy looking for Orion to rise in the east and identifying Sirius—the “Dog Star”—just below and to the left of Orion’s left leg. 

For all of you who are inclined to a more traditional way of thinking of the skies of December, let’s look forward to the Full “Cold” Moon of Christmas Eve and Clement Clarke Moore’s class tale of Santa’s visit, “The Night Before Christmas:” ‘The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of mid-day to objects below.’ Yep. Now all we will need is snow before a clearing sky and the fantasy comes to life. Enjoy the coming season. Be kind to all living creatures and to all a good-night. 

Music and Memories of Annabel Lee

By Bob Grindle

Ever so faintly in the background music is playing…a crazy tangle of flute and piano and harpsichord and guitar and voices. A patchy quilt of sounds. Not sure where it’s coming from…Herbie Mann, maybe Joni Mitchell, definitely some Leonard Cohen, Dylan and Ella Fitzgerald and not sure, Bach or Vivaldi. The music fades.

It is late in the day of September 13th, a grey and threatening day outside. Somewhere in Hartford Hospital I feel like every stored idea and memory I’d ever tucked away in long forgotten, poorly lit, cob-web covered and untidied corners of my mind has fallen off the brittle archival shelves in the prefrontal cortex and broken into a million pieces…more than seven decades of debris…shards of incomplete thoughts and random incoherent fragments of memories; plans wrapped in layers of hope and carefully shelved: “…sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground…” and even memories of fourth grade teachers reading Annabel Lee were clotted somewhere inside my brain as a slowly returning consciousness struggles to overcome the chaos of more than 6 hours of general anesthesia. Curtains of caution wafted uselessly as words bubbled up endlessly from this artesian fountain word-spill. My wife was amused for a while as I tried to make some sort of conversation during this cerebral power outage but, realizing the worst was over, she kissed me and headed home.

The spell was cast and with Lin’s kiss and departure my awareness curled back into its reverie and, gradually, tattered memories and visions of sunny hillsides or star filled night skies faded into the quiet empty canvas of sleep. After years of excellent health and good fortune in navigating life’s ever shifting currents, this recent diagnosis of esophagus cancer has become tonight’s rather heavy reality of a post-operative helplessness heralding the beginning of a long recovery. Waking the next morning to the sounds of monitors and life support ‘bots,’ I felt lucky to have an east-facing window and watched as Venus rose into the clearing dawn sky over Hartford. There are moments in all of our lives when our sense of well-being—that belief in oneself that you can cope with whatever comes along—when that confidence is put to the test. Sitting here, pretty much unable to move without help is one of those moments, but reflecting on the amazing skill, talent and dedication of the healthcare team that made this journey possible quiets my anxiety. If I ever doubted that living is not a solo undertaking, those doubts have taken wing and are long gone.  

It is midday October 22nd, some five weeks since the operation…a chill and blustery day here in the quiet corner, a day full of color and energy.  Living in eastern Connecticut it is easy to feel we are rocking in a cradle almost too gorgeous to be real…nestled between impressive urban centers of dynamism and opportunity, but hidden away under dark night skies and tucked in between forests, farms, waterways and vibrant small towns in a valley that is ancient beyond belief and lovely without taking your breath away, it is easy to pat ourselves on the back for choosing such a place to build a nest. Walking slowly uphill, past the chicken pen, over to the garden and then out to the fields, I notice that the younger sugar maples don’t seem to have lost their leaves to the anthracnose fungus in this exceedingly wet year, and the red maples along the west and north of our property are as beautiful as ever. The forests that surround us are some of the most diverse, and might I add, most beautiful mixed hardwood biomes to be found anywhere. The recently cut field invites a quick run and I smile to think…perhaps not just met. Healing is for the moment and we set off on a simple and immensely enjoyable walk as we talk about healing strategies and I recall reading that the older maples will rebound just fine next year.

By the time we finish our walk it is late afternoon and the waxing Moon is rising into a still day lit sky. The chill that has been with us all day is starting to settle in and remind us that the Sun’s heat is all about the angle of attack and tonight will be worthy of an extra blanket. Jupiter will be rising soon and by the time of the full Hunter’s Moon this weekend the planet and Moon will make for a delightful pairing. Bring on November, and with it a return to Standard Time. 

Without a doubt the loveliest display of the month will be in the pre-dawn sky of November 9th. After the clocks have been turned back and mornings start a bit earlier, the pre- dawn hours of Thursday morning’s east/southeastern sky will see a diamond-bright Venus nearly touching a shimmering sliver of the waning crescent Moon. A jewel of a way to start the day if ever there was one…let’s hope for clear skies. If you miss the 9th, Venus and the faint crescent Moon will be around for a couple more days. They just won’t be so closely paired. A couple of weeks later, in the eastern sky shortly after sunset on November 24th and 25th  the waxing Moon and Jupiter will repeat October’s close pairing as the Moon approaches its full Beaver phase, occasionally referred to as the Frost Moon. 

There are two, usually minor, meteor showers that extend most of the month of November, from the Taurids in early and mid-month to the Leonids that usually peak around the 18th. Due to some advantageous alignments and phases of the Moon this year, a little extra time spent looking up any time you’re out at night this November might be rewarded. The Leonids especially are known for some of the fastest shooting stars (meteors.) 

Stay well, be kind to those around you and enjoy what’s left of the colorful end of year celebration that our region treats us to every autumn. Oh yes, and be sure to enjoy the musical score that is always playing in the background of our lives.

We Are All Storytellers

By Bob Grindle

There were moments when, as a young grammar school student, my attention would drift far from the lesson being taught. It didn’t take much…a bird flying past a window, a cloud shapeshifting against a blue sky, the steady droning sound of the class’s 20 gallon aquarium or the rainy day smell of a class of nearly 40 kids all trying to shake or shiver or stamp themselves dry, and sometimes just thinking about running across a summer field and down the hill to the old gravel pit.  A fifth grade geography or history or English lesson didn’t stand a chance against the fresh, youthful pull of an imagination in full wild horses racing across the high plains state of mind. Despite the teacher’s concerns expressed to my parents that I was too easily distracted and not living up to some lofty, hoped for or imagined potential, thoughts about bicycle trips down to the river or an upcoming family vacation or some recent exploration of a nearby abandoned factory would still fill that enormous etch-a-sketch screen that lurks on stage in the theater of each of our minds.  Such thoughts gently nudged our teacher, Mrs. Krammer’s, curricular efforts off the stage…all but one effort, the class’s daily trip to the school library. 

The school library was a place where a young imagination could rope-swing out over the deep canyon of youthful optimism without hearing the gentle gasps of those who might prefer a bit less mystery in how their days, or lives unfold. I’d like to think that Mrs. Krammer grasped full well the pure magic of her sorcery as she led the class down hallway for a half hour of rather jittery library discovery time followed by another half hour of always rapt and quiet story time. As I sit here looking out through an open window into an early July rainfall that transforms every perception of the surrounding woodland…at least to human eyes…I am reflecting on the 50th anniversary trip my wife and I just completed. There is a small part of me that knows that a fifth grade teacher—by guiding her classes to understand that they can learn from the stories of others—owns a tiny piece of the success of our story. 

There is a relentless and inexorable edge and complexity to the passage of time. The voyage of life, as poets and writers and painters have described and depicted it, is far more beautiful and mysterious and frightening and filled with more wonders and danger than any charlatan’s promise or travel brochure could possibly embrace, and as my wife and I take stock of the vessel that has carried us down this river of life these many years, we chuckle to note that perhaps the boat is in better shape than the sailors. And so it is with humor and excitement that we both look forward to many more years of this journey, crossing summer fields and snowy roads, our minds always looking up while keeping our eyes focused on the path forward.

    Looking up into the early morning and after sunset skies has been a test of patience and persistence through much of these last couple of months. If the skies weren’t completely hazed by smoke blown in from forest fires to our north, they were usually cloudy and threatening rain. But perhaps July and August will bring better viewing, and the three full Moons that frame these two Summer months—that’s right, three full Moons in two months—will have a way of shining through whatever nature puts in their way. In fact, the full Sturgeon Moon of August 1st and the full Blue Moon of August 30th will both be Super Moons because the Moon will be at its nearest to the Earth of the entire year. As twilight fades  an hour after sunset on Wednesday, August 30, cast a look to the east-southeast and the full Super Moon, the second full Moon of August, will be rising with Saturn, slightly above and to the right. Of course, if you’re anything like me, all full Moons are super.

But, while full Moons get more than their share of attention and romantic poetry, they tend to overwhelm the smaller details of night time sky watching. The nights of July 18-20, half an hour after sunset, a little before 9 pm, will treat sky watchers to a jewler’s case of small details as the young and delicate waxing crescent Moon  passes by Mars, Regulus, Venus and Mercury as it sets into the western sky.

The rain has ended and the chorus of birds reminds me that our planet is full of communities, full of neighborhoods, full of promise and beauty and full of opportunity to help care for it. Be well, enjoy the next couple of summer months in our gem of a neighborhood…and maybe visit your local library. 

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