When my dog Durango was alive, much of my day was structured around her bio-essentials: need to walk the dog, got to go feed the dog; can't leave the dog in the car too long. For fourteen years, I scheduled dates, trips, vacations, classes, and social outings considering if she could go, or how she could be taken care of if she did not. But Durango was low maintenance--trained to the gills--she never barked, fought, begged, licked, shed, or insisted on attention. Trained to stay out of the kitchen and the dining room, Durango greeted company and laid in the living room as part of the family. I do miss her--fourteen years of off-leash trails and camping, and beach walks and just sitting on the shore.
But this is not about Durango.
It is about the moon.
Our routine consisted of three walks: the long morning park trail--which had started out as a run but somebody got older--the after-work-around-the-corner release, and the good night walk. The last one of the day. I put down the computer or the book, the stack of papers I was grading or the writing I was hammering and said, "Come on." She lifted her head from her basket, and pulled her body out her basket and trotted to the door before my heels slid into my clogs.
Our route was East, North, West, South: up Patterson, across Harbor View, down Brown, and across California. We live in a neighborhood of residential houses with small front yards, pretty windows and groomed sidewalks. Each night I went out, i allowed the tour of my corner of the Laurel release the tension from my shoulders, shake to do lists from my head, and stretch my legs as we walked up the fairly steep hill.
As we turned on Harbor View to descend Brown, I paused. At this elevation, the Bay, downtown Oakland, and the San Francisco skyline were spread before us. Lights from cars sparkled on the Bay Bridge, the water lay like glass and the city sometimes appeared like columns of light and other times hid behind the veil of fog. I inhaled, took visual notes, my eyes wide, my body appreciative. I was in a trance. Sometimes when listening to live music, I am compelled to close my eyes and let the music enter through my skin. Like that. At the top of that hill, eyes wide, that moment of absorption was total, head to toe.
At this point my life shifts slightly. I don't take my view for granted--just like I don't let myself miss the moon.
At the beginning of the walk as Durango and I head up the hill, she is busy sniffing grass and trees, but i am cranked, head back eyes up. We are going east and somewhere above us, a phase of the moon might be in a state of rising. And I check, scan the sky like a tower radar. We have a small share of stars, mostly diffused by city lights--Orion for sure in the winter, Cassiopeia in the summer--they are punctuated by jet streams and landing gear ready to descend to the Oakland Airport behind us. But all the light pollution in the world does not blank out the moon and if it's there I find it: a small sliver earring of a moon, the lemon slice of moon or the gigantic yellow-blue full disk of late fall.
I am moon greedy. In this moment of connection, I consider it mine. I am the astronomer who discovered it, named it, I am the sun who lights it; I am the keeper of the moon.
The moon rests on shoulders. Believe me. Go out some night, a full moon night when it's nice and low in the sky. Watch it for a while. When you turn away, you will feel it on your shoulders.
My dad who is a great walker knows this about me. In our conversation, one of us will inevitably say, "Did you see the moon?" I always thank him for sending it to me. He lives in Maryland; he gets it first. "Nice moon, Dad, Thanks!"
But Durango died. Almost two years ago. The evening walks ended and so did this ritual of seeking out the sky, making it part of my day. I have tried to reproduce it--go out by myself at night. But I feel awkward, as if i'm missing something--which I am. Once in a while I go out on our deck, look at the sky for a moment, wrap my arms around each other, and re-enter the house, the screen door clapping once behind me.
With out this counterpoint to my day, everything else intensifies--my work becomes more insistent, my time on the computer longer, my worries stay worries and don't get the honey-brush of a night time walk. In the last two years, my sense of safety suffered with the intense unhappiness of the world and the country--the toxic atmosphere that was played out in the media, in my own inbox on the computer--where i was now spending my Durango time.
I want to feel safe again. Everyone does and many do with a new president. But i want more.
My return to the night and the neighborhood, I want walks, relief and to return to counting stars. The world outside my door is a little foreign at night, when once it had been my territory, ours, really. Mine and Durango's. It's not time for another dog, but i do want the moon. I want it big, in my hair like knots, on my skin like body butter, dusting my clothes and bouncing on my finger tips. It has to happen.
So look for me, walking East, North, West, South. I am the one whose head is back, whose eyes are wide and who has the moon on her shoulders.
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