Early this morning I was awakened by the glow of the super full moon shining through my window. Well, at least Aditi was stirred from her sleep and she woke me up at three AM to take notice. And to feed her breakfast. For an hour and a half I tossed and turned until, finally at four-thirty, I got out of bed and walked to the window to gaze at the luminescence that bathed my back yard in a pearly white. It was truly a wonder to behold and reminded me of a magical night nearly fifteen years ago.
But I'll get to that in a moment.
Earlier this week, I watched "Apollo 13" again...for the ninth or tenth time. It's one of my favorite movies, bar none, as it's a true story with a very clear mythological theme. A trio of astronauts enter space with the goal of walking on the moon. Two days later, before they ever reached the lunar orbit, an unexpected event shattered their hopes of achieving it and threatened their imminent survival -- and it was uncertain that they'd even be able to return home to Earth.
Of course, we all know what happened. Thousands of people worked around the clock to not only sustain the astronaut's lives in space, but also create innovative ways to generate enough power to bring them home again. And on April 17, 1970, the world breathed a sigh of relief as the Aquarius splashed down in the South Pacific.
What struck me most in watching the film this time around was the journey around the dark side of the moon. The fact that all radio communication was impeded. That complete and utter darkness engulfed the spacecraft. Time seemed to stand still while Mission Control waited for a sign that Aquarius was on its way back to earth via a free-return trajectory. And as the brilliance of the sun rose over the horizon of the lunar periphery, I began to understand why that moment held so much power for me.
It's a wonder to realize that since the creation of our Universe, all of mankind has only been able to see one side of the moon. The dark side is always facing out into the vastness of space, and only a handful of people have ever witnessed it with their own eyes. I've found that it is the rare person who's willing to truly embrace their dark side...or the shadows that lie beneath the surface of their consciousness. Twenty years ago, I, too, spent over a year in therapy denying the truth in what was rising up in my awareness. I subjugated my emotions, terrified of what else I might discover.
But in the end I accepted that the life I thought I had (or was supposed to have) was really an illusion and surrendered to what was happening in moment. Again and again, I traveled to the dark side of my inner moon without knowing what would happen next. Without trusting that I would have my own free-return trajectory. Without a plan for how I would have enough strength and power to come back home to myself. Without even knowing if "home" was an option.
I imagine that the astronauts from Apollo 13 came back to Earth completely changed by their encounter. Even though they were thoroughly debriefed, there would be parts of the experience that they could never quite articulate. I know how that feels, for no one can truly understand the inner workings of a person's spirit...to really know what it means to live through the lessons and evolution of the individual soul.
But I'm heartened to see the full moon this week...even more inspired by the fact that we'll see another one in August...and the final super full moon of the season will occur on my birthday in September. Isn't it a joy and a wonder to know that every single person on this planet can see the very same phenomena if the skies are clear where they live?
If you've read "Swing music", then you know I've been truly enjoying twilight in my backyard this year. My life has come full circle from 1999 when I left the known entity of teaching with a regular paycheck and health insurance and tenure to venture into the world of the unknown. At the time I didn't know that I would slowly build a yoga business. That I would move to California and back. That upon my return, I'd have to deal with the most difficult experiences of my life. But I imagine had I known what would happen, I never would have put myself on the launch pad of life and said to the Universe, "Okay...let's liftoff!"
So here's a story lifted from the last section of my memoir that I'll be remembering this evening as I walk barefoot through my garden after sunset. And if you listen closely, you might hear me humming a little tune by Van Morrison...and doing a little Moon Dance to celebrate the quiet, yet abundant happiness I've found since discovering the incredible sunrise that occurs when coming around the dark side of the moon.
From the final chapter "Open Road," from
It’s a rainy afternoon in the summer of 1999. I’m having tea with a good friend and we’re discussing the ups and downs of major life choices. I recently left teaching and still don’t know what's on the horizon. What seemed like a great leap of faith a few months ago has turned into a free fall into panic. It's as if my life is stuck in a nonstop squeaky hamster wheel, going around and around and around with no end in sight.
I tell Olivia, “I really need to do something tangible to help me move past this fear of what’s coming next. It’s going to kill me if I don’t let it go.”
My friend looks at me and grins. “I was leaving the house today and three times I had the intuition to go back inside and get something for you.”
I anxiously wait on pins and needles while she goes to her car to get whatever this “thing” is. Will it be the golden ticket to calm my fears? Right now, I’m willing to try anything.
When Olivia returns, she hands me a tiny, white vial saying, “Put that in your purse and take it outside tonight when the moon is full. Don’t open it until you’re outside.”
“What’s it for?” I ask, turning it over in my hand, desperate to have all my questions answered instantly.
“You’ll know when you open it, Katie,” Olivia says. “Trust me. Don’t think about it too much.”
“What is it? Something I’m supposed to drink or what?”
She smiles knowingly. “I’m not telling you. You’ll know exactly what to do. And don’t come back inside until that bottle is empty.”
In the past, I’ve always despised mysteries, but in that moment I start to believe in magic potions…or at least in the potential for one to magically appear in my life.
I trust Olivia.
I trust the moment.
It rains most of that evening, so the night air is moist and fluid. As I step outside my back door, a full moon shines over the south side of my garden. Walking barefoot through the dewy grass, I drag one of the lawn chairs into the middle of the yard so that I can open the vial under the radiant glow.
When I twist off the cap, I realize the bottle is filled with bubbles. In the lid is a wand to dip into the soapy solution. I laugh, realizing what my friend had meant for me to do. I’m supposed to name my fears, one by one, then gently send them away as I blow the bubbles into the humid night air.
I take a deep breath and began.
"I’m afraid I’ll never find a job," I whisper. I blow dozens of tiny bubbles into the air.
"I’m afraid of falling in love with someone new because I’ll lose my identity again." More bubbles fly over my head.
"I’m afraid of making the wrong choices with my life."
As I watch the luminescent spheres of light float through the moist nighttime air, I find the courage to name all the fears that come to mind. The simple ones. The complex ones. The ones that have haunted me since childhood. The ones that have just emerged in that moment. My heart becomes lighter and lighter as I release them all with childlike abandon.
And then…one more surfaces.
Tears come to my eyes as I say aloud, “I’m afraid to be happy because then all the bubbles will burst.”
As I blow a multitude of orbs into the air, I close my eyes and allow silent tears to fall down my cheeks. A moment later I take a deep breath, open my eyes, then look around the yard. Surrounding me like a carpet of shining crystal balls, all of the bubbles are lovingly cradled in the dewy grass.
Every one reflects the light of the full moon, whole and unbroken.
I begin to blow more bubbles just for the sheer joy of it. They float up into the air, descend to the ground, and land on the grass…the chair…my skin. I realize that my fear of happiness, of change, the fear of bubbles bursting is just an illusion I had created to keep me safe inside myself.
When the bottle is nearly empty, I dip the wand inside it one last time and wonder, “How much happiness can I hold now?”