Neil Armstrong died this past week, and now there is a full moon. I keep thinking about it. The moon is a big deal for a lot of people I met through school--it's a big deal to me, though I find it easier to talk about what it means to other people, people who are more overtly religious than I am. When you don't have a religion to talk about, all you have is spirituality, the deeply personal, the hard to explain.
I'm going to be thirty-one years old this coming month. I obviously don't remember a moon without Neil Armstrong's footprint on it. Not that I can see the print, but I know about it. I've always known about it. My first memory of the moon, in fact, is of my Dad telling me about how astronauts had walked on it. I had a picture book all about it. I wonder what it was like to look up and see a moon that nobody had ever walked on, and then see that change.
I know people who wish it had never happened. For them, the moon is the Goddess, period, and the thought of the moon also being a planetary body of rock and dust seems disturbing. Even Kit, who does not object to the moon landing, tends to ignore it. She looks up and sees the Lady. She does not see men's footprints there.
I know other people who wish humans would go back to the moon, who see our failure to go back as a failure of human spirit. I don't know what to think.
Tonight, I went out to my garden, our garden, at the house my wife and I rent. We're allowed to do all our own landscaping, and we've done a little backyard habitat, like Charlie taught me. But we also have a moon garden. It's mostly natives, but it's all pale plants and white flowers, or flowers that open at night, for moths. There's a bird-bath in the middle, and I go out there sometimes, to think. I take out my athame, the one Kit gave me, and I look at the moon reflected in the water, and I pray. Or I get as close as I get to prayer, anyway. Tonight I prayed for Neil Armstrong.
And I prayed for my wife and our baby, the one she thinks we're going to have. We don't know for sure yet. We weren't planning for this, we weren't trying, but we weren't trying not to, either. Imagine; our own little astronaut, swimming weightless in my wife's sea.
We're all exploring a new world, every day.
The moon was significant for Charlie, too, though he never explained what he saw when he looked at it. He never explained much about himself, and I never asked. There's a lot about his story I never knew, and probably never will, now. But he did sometimes tell me snippets, little hints, about who he was, and he once told me about his first AA meeting, and how he got sober. He never told me about his drinking, and he told me very little about his sobriety, but he told me how one became the other.
It was back when the Master's Group was still just six friends,three of whom owned a house together, and the students, or those people who eventually evolved into students, would crash out in the basement, studying, doing yoga or sometimes drugs, wondering what, exactly, enlightenment was. There were six then as there are six now, but nobody from back then is left. I've only ever met one of them. Charlie was friends with them, and worked as a landscaper and arborist.
I don't know how or why, but Charlie got in trouble. He lost his apartment--that's how he said it, "lost," like he misplaced it somehow. He asked his friends if he could stay with them for a while, and they said yes--if he went to one AA meeting first. I'll try to put the story in Charlie's own words.
"If they'd said I had to get sober I would have ignored them. I'd have slept on a park bench. I didn't need their sanctimonious shit, telling me what to do...not when they had half a dozen kids getting stoned every night in their basement. But they just said I had to go to one meeting. Just one meeting. I figured, what the hell, I've done worse things for rent. I slept through half the meeting, but when it was over, I got up, walked outside to where all the reformed drunks were standing around, smoking and gabbing...and as I came out from under the eves of the building, the light of the fill moon fell on my face. And I knew I'd never drink again. I asked Jim--he took me to the meeting--to help me get into rehab. He did. And I went."
I asked Charlie then why he went to rehab, why he bothered attending AA meetings at all, if he knew from that moment that he'd never drink again. And he looked at me the way you'd look at some little kid who had just said something irrelevant.
"Daniel," he said to me, "when God speaks, you don't ask those kinds of questions."