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Reality is Just a Tango with Time

Blue River by Georgia O'Keeffe

Blue River by Georgia O'Keeffe

In the fall, as the landscape withdraws into stark lines and the coming cold breathes brittle into my bones, I mourn time’s inevitable creep forward into darkness. In very ancient eras, time was endless, like a wheel, and therefore hopeful. Its circle of birth and death always led to rebirth as it marked the seasons, the years, and the generations. Then, as science ascended, time became a mathematical concept, merely a dimension, often depicted as an arrow unstoppably propelled into the future. Time was captured and stuffed into clocks to regulate our lives in factories and offices.

And so, time was also transformed in my own life. When I was a child, time was magic, a beloved friend who gave gifts at Christmas and birthdays and stretched out happy summer afternoons until I was too tired to play. Now, time has become simply the grid of each week’s over-burgeoning calendar page, keeping me up at night wondering how I will accomplish everything when morning comes too quickly. Continue reading →

River Stones

River Rocks II by Donna  Geissler

River Rocks II by Donna Geissler

My younger sisters and I used to walk in the shallow river by my childhood home. In secret.

Mother buzzed off to work, and again I was put in charge. At eleven, I had finger-wagging and maternal sighs down cold. Three and four years older than my sisters, not only was I taller, but here first: I held the court. I can’t remember whose idea it was to go down to the river that first time, but boredom often inspires mischief in children. Continue reading →

Entering the Compass of Your Life

Collage with Compass

Collage with Compass

Where are you going? In what direction are you facing at this very moment? Are you gazing into the eyes of the dawn as it crescendos in the east? Are you looking toward the North Star that guided your seafaring ancestors so many years ago? In this day of GPS and Mapquest, direction is less essential to survival than in past times.

Survival once depended on knowing that north lead to fresh water or that east was away from the tiger den. Many people are not consciously aware of their relationship to the Earth’s directions. Continue reading →

Sunday Biscuits

Woman Baking Loaves of Bread and Biscuits by Nina Leen

Woman Baking Loaves of Bread and Biscuits by Nina Leen

My grandmother taught me how to bake proper biscuits before my tenth birthday. She lived in our town, and I visited her regularly, often sleeping over at her house on my own. Cooking and cards were our pastimes.

Gummy, as I came to call her at the age of two, came from a time with butter churns and trains and hats and gloves. Her biscuit recipe was no different. An old recipe, it was written on an unlined card with fountain ink, complete with blots where the pen rested just a second too long. This card would prove to be one of my favorite parts of the baking process. She’d place it on the sill above her sink, and then put the simplest of ingredients on the counter. Gummy measured without spoons or cups while I stood in silent awe beside her on the kitchen stool. Continue reading →

Seasons: Ten Lessons in Transitions

Greetings from Brooklyn, New York

Greetings from Brooklyn, New York

One
Summer 2001, ten naval officers create an arch of sabers in the gray granite courtyard of our church. Buoyant and dressed in shades of white we step toward two facing rows of ten officers. Under the silver engraved blades, we bond our marriage to the life of the Navy. In a photo from this moment, mature cherry trees lend a flowery outline to our silhouette against a pastel summer evening sky. Just as the trees, we are rooted in our strength.

Two
I am a Navy wife for the first nine years of our marriage. My life draws strength from deep within my spirit and from the support of the other wives around me. With my pilot-husband away and up in the skies for more weeks a year than he is home, I define my motherhood solo. I parrot actions and words from external parts of my life, while doubting my internal voice daily. Our relationship bears famine of time, and interval bursts of life. Indeed, supervised paperwhites can bloom indoors in winter, but perhaps a grounded spring flowering better suits the curriculum of nature. Continue reading →

Chaos-To-Go: Life as a Holy Speck in an Infinite Messiness

Joshua Trees and Star Trails in a Twilight Sky over California by Tim Laman

Joshua Trees and Star Trails in a Twilight Sky over California by Tim Laman

When spring arrives in New England, every acre burgeons into chaos as millions of spores and microscopic one-celled wonders, plants, fungi, animals, and birds emerge from an icy sleep into manic activity. Every year I marvel at this emergence of boundless life for a week or two until precise patterns of rivers and fields take shape. I experienced very much the same joy and astonishment when I first felt my unborn son move, when I realized that another being had somehow come into existence in the midst of the everyday disorder of my ordinary life. Surely these miracles cannot be, but they are.

Over this winter, I read books about the latest mathematical and scientific discoveries. With the world in its uncertain state, I sought sure, simple, and unchangeable truths. Imagine my astonishment when I discovered that in the thirty years since I studied these subjects in college, the chaos of spring and rebirth has overtaken the orderly and mechanical perspectives of Euclid and Newton. Continue reading →

Finding Sanctuary in Everyday Hours

Stone Path Through Woods Lined with Fallen Autumn Leaves, Vermont by James Forte

Stone Path Through Woods Lined with Fallen Autumn Leaves, Vermont by James Forte


Once you pass the threshold of this place, you are completely free of the demands of the outside world. Every thread is cut that binds you in time and place to the obligations, incessant voices, schedules and spiritual constrictions of your everyday life. While you are here, whether for a moment, or an hour, or years, no unwanted human-made sounds or lights disturb your solitude. Nothing exists in this place that does not nourish you or that you have not welcomed. You are in sanctuary.

Every day for the past year or so, I have dwelled in sanctuary during daily walks to work on quiet wooded trails. For that hour, I am incommunicado and my only responsibility is to put one foot in front of the other until I reach my office. I remember the same sense of safety and peace from the playtimes of my childhood. Back then, sanctuary was all around me everyday and, in its fertile peace, I flourished. Continue reading →

Come Back with Your Shield

Above All, Navy Fighter Jet

Above All, Navy Fighter Jet

In the time of Ancient Greece, Spartan women shouted to husbands and sons before they left for battle:
“Come back with your shield—or on it.”

“Ready?” I sit up in bed, watching my husband lace up his boots. He is all hero in his drab green flight suit, colorful squadron patches at his shoulders and chest.

“As ready as ever.” I feel the day’s urgency in his gentle squeeze of my shoulders as he kisses me goodbye. “See you at eleven?”

“We’ll be there.”
Continue reading →

Magic Happened This Summer

Plums by Alma'ch

Plums by Alma'ch

My mother-in-law, Maria, and my husband’s Uncle George, welcomed us to Greece on a perfect June morning this past summer. Two full weeks of family relaxation in their childhood village of Xirokabi lay ahead.

Dry breezes and bright blue skies beckoned my husband, our two young sons, and me outdoors for the better part of our days. We walked the dirt roads of the village, cooed to the farm animals, and examined the twisted bark of ancient olive trees. Our sons climbed the fruit trees—mostly plum—in search of their juiciest jewels. A bounty of seasonal vegetables and fruits, local meats and breads, and handmade village wine covered the table daily for our mesimeriano, “midday meal.” Afternoons gave us hours of lounging on the black, white, and gray pebble beach of the Gulf of Lakonia. My children squealed with delight as little fish darted around their legs. Continue reading →

Like a Mother

Sorrow by Dawn Blair

Sorrow by Dawn Blair

Bhopal is a city with lakes in the middle and hills all around it. Pretty. Pleasant. Quiet. In the surrounding hills a unique museum, where tribes from all over India were invited to build homes in their own unique styles, spreads over the rolling landscape. Visitors can wander for hours under the trees, in and out of houses made from crooked limbs and mud. All have a simple dignity; some are beautiful.

But Bhopal isn’t as famous for these nice things as it is for tragedy. One December night in 1984, there were 3,900 people killed by gas from a pesticide plant (or more, depending on which statistics you trust). In the following months, more succumbed to burned lungs and poisoned systems—at least 15,000 died because of the gas leak. Continue reading →