Last week I was standing on the beach with my sister and my niece. We were spending a vacation week together and had just eaten dinner at an outdoor restaurant. After we finished our meals, we wandered down to the sea. My niece, who is 8, was collecting white stones, looking for the smoothest and palest she could find.
“They are special stones,” she explained, choosing one for herself. “They help you find your style. Do you want one?” She held out her open palm.
I examined the varieties of round and semi-round stones, some the size of a quarter, some the size of a bean. My sister took one, but I hesitated for a moment. “What kind of style? Like fashion?” I asked.
“No,” she said in her serious little girl voice. “For art.”
Y. is a manga artist. Her mother is a painter, printmaker and photographer. Well, it couldn’t hurt, I figured, thinking it might help me with my writing. I chose a stone that looked like a rounded triangle with gray shadows under its translucent white surface.
“You have to put it in a cup of water under the moon,” Y. explained. “Do I have to be outside under the moon, or can I put the cup on a windowsill that looks out on the moon?” I asked. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “It just has to be under the moon.” I could see she was making up the rules as she went along, but that didn’t make the ritual any less serious.
That evening, when I returned to the inn where I was staying, I looked out the window but could not see the moon. I put on a pair of flip flops and stepped outside. The sky was overcast. No stars, no moon. The second night rain was coming. There was no chance of seeing the moon, but I walked outside anyway, down the driveway and around back where the pool reflected the cloud-strewn darkness.
A week later, vacation has ended and I am back home. I’ve continued to look for the moon, but still haven’t seen it. It could be the new moon, I thought for the first few nights of its absence, but as the week passed, I realized it can’t possibly be new for this long. Missing the moon has made me long to see it even more.
As if Y’s spell was gaining power, I felt myself putting off returning to my creative writing. The moon was missing. I was missing teaching poetry. My creative voice seemed to have strayed away as well. In the suburbs the streetlights dim the starlight, but I can still see the Big Dipper and Venus. So, why not the moon?
I have the stone on my nightstand. It seems to have lost some of its glow, perhaps because it’s so far from the sea. It needs the moon, too, so I can finish the ritual and bathe it in water.
Tonight when I took my dog for a walk I scanned the sky as I turned the corners of our familiar route. Still no moon. But then a shooting star blazed across the sky, just over a neighbor’s house. If it weren’t for my niece and her secret spell, I’d have missed that. It was just enough to sustain me for one more night. Hopefully tomorrow the moon will reappear.
Photo by Aja Riggs Copyright 2007