There was a beautiful moon the other night. I was driving around, doing some mundane errand when I glimpsed a huge low-hanging orange orb in the sky. Those big stunning moons always make me gasp. There among the silouettes of Walmart, Pick N’ Save and fast food joints appears that magical glowing planet in the sky. It intrudes onto my view of urban landscape to jolt me out of the haze of daily life.
I never paid much attention to the moon or the sky in general until I went to China when I was 19 years old. Staying in smog-ridden Beijing—amazing as is the city—makes one long to see the blue sky, white fluffy clouds and especially, a full moon. One night after a rain in the city there was a much-coveted clear sky, and there was my orange moon, hanging between glass office buildings, dirty concrete apartment buildings and ancient pagoda-style facades. It struck me because I hadn’t seen the moon, nor anything in the sky except an off-white not-quite-cloud cover, for weeks. As I biked back to the college I pondered life and the universe as I watched the moon duck behind and reappear from behind the trees and buildings.
In the summer of 2000 I used to take lots of long evening walks from my apartment to the Monona Terrace in Madison. A close friend and I would walk up there and talk and look at the amazing moon. My memory is that that moon shone every night we went out, as we pondered life and imagined a year-long separation as I prepared to move to China. In the amazing lakeside view off the terrace roof the huge red-orange moon would travel from one side of our view to the other; it reminded me how big the world is and how small we are in it. Planets and suns moving around the universe and here we are, with so many individual hopes and dreams and heartaches and joys, trying to make sense of it all.