Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Stars, Moons, Phosphorescence
Falling asleep and waking up to the intense light of this month's full moon made me think of my sister Diane's pre - Christmas epiphany. Back in mid - December, she wrote:
"Early this morning I took our garbage to the curb. Our subdivision is very dark, as we have no street lights and the lots are big. Other neighbors are hard to see. It was raining a little, and I almost changed my mind about going in the dark. But when I opened the front door to look out, I saw a big bright star. It was only a decoration on my neighbor's house, but it shone down on my driveway just enough so I could tell where to walk. Taking that walk so reminded me of that long ago walk taken by Kings to see our Savior. God bless your day."
Reading her description of the bright Christmas star, even if it was "only a decoration," brought to mind my favorite quote from the movie Apollo 13, when the television reporter asks Jim Lovell (as portrayed by Tom Hanks) if there is "a specific instance in an airplane emergency when you can recall fear?"
Both Lovell's revelation and my sister's epiphany give me goosebumps. Reading their words, I feel exhilarated and humbled at the same time.
Lovell:"Uh well, I'll tell ya, I remember this one time - I'm in a Banshee at night in combat conditions, so there's no running lights on the carrier. It was the Shrangri-La, and we were in the Sea of Japan and my radar had jammed, and my homing signal was gone... because somebody in Japan was actually using the same frequency. And so it was - it was leading me away from where I was supposed to be. And I'm lookin' down at a big, black ocean, so I flip on my map light, and then suddenly: zap. Everything shorts out right there in my cockpit. All my instruments are gone. My lights are gone. And I can't even tell now what my altitude is. I know I'm running out of fuel, so I'm thinking about ditching in the ocean. And I, I look down there, and then in the darkness there's this uh, there's this green trail. It's like a long carpet that's just laid out right beneath me. And it was the algae, right? It was that phosphorescent stuff that gets churned up in the wake of a big ship. And it was - it was - it was leading me home. You know? If my cockpit lights hadn't shorted out, there's no way I'd ever been able to see that. So uh, you, uh, never know . . . what . . . what events are to transpire to get you home" (ellipses in original text).
Awhile back (see "How to Keep On Hoping"), I mentioned a favorite passage from E. L. Doctorow, quoted by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, describing a similar phenomenon: " 'writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.' You don't have to see where you are going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you" (18).
That's what stars are for . . . and moons . . . and headlights . . . and phosphorescence . . .
P.S. A friend writes:
Tonight, the first full moon
after the winter solstice.
The "Wolf Moon" or the "Old Moon."
A beautiful full moon over Lee's Summit
as we roasted marshmallows.