Did you ever see the full moon rise? I can’t remember ever watching a moonrise before my neighbor, Jill, told us about it last summer. Standing out on long pier on a clear evening, we oohed and aahed as moonlight the size of a pinhead ballooned into its full monthly resurrection.
Every month when the full moon rises in a clear sky, it is as spectacular in its own way as a sunrise. The light is highly concentrated rather than spread out and licking the horizon as the sun does when it dawns or sets. But the light of the moon’s contrast against the cobalt darkness makes its own magic. Thanks Jill.
I read recently, I can’t remember where, that dogs tell time with their sense of smell. If your dog is waiting at the door each day when you come home from work and you wondered how they knew you were coming, it is because their nose tells them. The odors we leave in the air all around us dissipate in our absence, and when our odor dissipates to the level it is upon our routine return, the dog knows we’ll be home soon.
My sense of time rides on the rhythm of my writing. Monday morning? Time to write Denim Spirit. Tuesday morning? Poetry. Wednesday? Sermon day. Thursday and Friday? Longer writing projects. Trips, doctor’s appointments, and unanticipated work interventions all wreak havoc with my sense of time. If I get to the end of a week in which there have been numerous interruptions, I feel discombobulated the way my dog does when my wife and I are both home when we are not suppose to be according to her nose.
Keeping time is far more complex for our body and soul than digits on a watch or phone. After serving a campus church for ten years the transition away from the academic calendar was startling, as those who retire from school or campus life discover. Anyone whose work includes a routine shift that gets changed or moved will attest to the disruptions it brings.
Having just traveled through a month in which numerous religions had holiday seasons, as well as the fall and rise of the calendar New Year, it is especially clear that we use rituals to tell time too. Having fixed festivals with shared community-wide activities, events, foods, music, and feasting place markers on the months of the year like mileposts on the highway. They tell us what’s coming and when, and give us moments to look forward to by serving as increments of time like hash marks on a watch face. We need them in ways we don’t even realize until they go missing, as in the COVID shutdown when so many markers disappeared.
It is almost a cliche to say we are change averse but we hear it all the time. “I don’t like change,” people will scowl when confronted with something different. And yet we are woven into a web of change that happens all around us all of the time. Sun and moon, winter and summer, weather fronts, molting and shedding seasons, the body’s evolution through aging, birth-growth-decline-and death. Constant change. Ritualizing change allows us to dance with it rather than trip over it. Change averse? Ritualize.
By the way, the next full moon rise is January 6th at 4:20 pm (at least here in Geneva, but check your local weather app)