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Tonight – Updated!

May 19, 2011

May 17, 2011

Marina life is city life and it’s difficult to keep track of the night sky. Lights and masts and society crowd it out. So it wasn’t until my first night on passage that I saw the moon and was happy. The moon was a thin fingernail then, so dim the stars obscured it, and my pleasure came not from its present state but from knowing I would see it wax as we made our southing.

So week after week we have made southing and now the moon is full.

But I am not expecting it tonight. The day has been relaxed–we had crossed the line earlier–and I am letting myself steep in the satisfaction. I stand in the companionway hatch intently finishing the champagne opened at the line and sipped slowly all day, and I watch the night come on.

Then the moon.

I turn, still thick with the richness of the setting sun and there it is, volcano-orange and grotesque. Torn into ragged, dangerous edges by distant black clouds, it is first a fiery car wreck on the horizon, then, as it takes some of its natural shape, a death mask. Slowly, ceremoniously it rises between two theatrically placed, uneven columns of cloud that twist and distort its shape as it angrily burns its way into the night, where, once born, it is immediately wrapped into the darkness of a passing rain squall. It emerges ten minutes later–the squall having thinned and pulled away like multiple layers of curtain–renewed, smaller, ivory, and casts a cool, regal glow onto the obsidian water below.

What an awesome show.

It’s on nights like this that I wish I could write, really write.  Like your favorite author whose pages are taken in like breathing.  Whose words, sentences, paragraphs become together more than anyone thought words, sentences, and paragraphs could be.  Whose characters are as good as real.  Whose fictions become, in your world, history.  Like that!

Orion reclines on the horizon, his lower elbow and knee resting gently on the pillows of two small clouds that, bored of their task or finding the night air too cool for their liking, slowly dissolve, and Orion, abandoned, sinks, legs first into the abyss.

I once sat down with a favorite book intent on understanding what made it tick.  Previously I’d been content to gorge on it again and again without any desire to have the recipe.

I looked up the words I had never thought it important to know.  I studied the sentences to see how the images and thoughts linked up.  I contemplated the book’s organization.

I learned a few new words and that the author of my favorite book knew nothing about punctuation.

That’s pretty much it.

The mystery of the book’s genius was not revealed in dissection.  Its powerful voice pounded through parts whose sum didn’t seem to add up to much.  How could that be?

I returned, with some relief, to regularly, thoughtlessly inhaling the book.

The North star is sunk.  For days now I have been trying to get a last glimpse before the ocean takes it.  But the moon is too bright for its distance to pierce or there is cloud on the horizon or I, distracted by the myriad other night entertainments, forget.  The big dipper rotates, filling and emptying each night and now, as we approach our second degree of south latitude, it still declines at least thirty degrees above the horizon.  But I fear the North star is drowned for good.

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