by Diana Elarde
I wasn’t sure what woke me in the night. I glanced at the clock. Not as late as I thought it was, still time for plenty of sleep. It took a moment before I saw the light all around me covering my head and body. I raised my eyes up towards the high windows the bed sits under. And there in the far corner I could see it. The moon. I was in the moonlight – experiencing a moon-bath.
The first moonlight bath I remember was in an ancient place; Mesa Verde, Colorado, high on a flat-top mountain in the hotel called Far View. A friend and I had journeyed together to spend a few days in the park, climbing old ruins, trying to solve the mystery of why people would carve dwellings high in the cliffs away from water and crops. And then after they created them, abandon them; leaving household items, graves of loved ones, sacred kivas for future people to find.
The moon was full the second night we were there, the sky clear, and some time in the midst of sleep I woke to find its light penetrating through the room, basking me completely in its aura. I eventually rose and looked from the window across the ancient land. In the shadow of the light there were outlines of cactus taking on mysterious forms, perhaps small spirits of the people who once were there. Rock formations, rigid during daylight hours, seemed to dance like old kachinas keeping away bad spirits of darkness. I felt the magic of the moment, staring at the wide open high desert mesa, wanting to go out and join with those who had passed before me and walk the old trails of the ancestors. Finally, the quiet of the night brought sleep on and I returned to bed, watching the moon’s reflection on the open mesa as I drifted off.
I can’t say sleeping in the moonlight changed me, made me wiser or opened a long dormant wisdom planted within me centuries ago. But I loved the experience of it. It was special, as if of all the places in the world and people of the universe I was chosen to bask in the light at this very specific time and place. And somehow it made me feel safer, quieter. It provided stillness within its being, within me.
When we first moved to Michigan there were some nights in the fall when I could see the moon shining in from the bedroom windows. Smiling, peaceful, I would return to a sleep, feeling all was well, feeling connected again to my experience that night at Mesa Verde.
But as late winter and early spring came to Michigan, the moonlight wasn’t apparent. Maybe because of the clouds, or perhaps the position of the moon in the sky did not allow for the light to enter the high windows of the bedroom.
Last night was different, bright and calling. I immediately thought of Mesa Verde and the view the moon provided. And then the idea came. The deck off the bedroom would be the perfect place to sit in the moonlight. I took the extra blanket from the hope chest at the foot of the bed. Wrapping it around me, I opened the door and stepped outside onto the deck. I sat in the lounge chair, tilting it to have a full view of the night sky.
The moon was three quarters full, intensely bright with a small ring around it. I tried to remember what the ring meant, some old sailors prediction of the day to come. The light of the moon blocked out most of the stars. I looked at the ones I could, not able to determine any specific pattern or constellation.
Orion, the hunter, with his visible three star belt has always been my favorite. He was clear and bright above my house in Colorado. It was as if his nightly journey in the heavens circled and protected my home. Both my children know his story, told many nights before bed or sitting at a Colorado camp fire. Orion and the goddess Diana, in love. Apollo her brother disapproving, tricking Diana, the Huntress, into accidently killing Orion with an arrow. In her grief, she placed Orion in the heavens, always to be remembered and immortalized.
“Tell me again about the man in the sky” my daughter used to say. And I would. It was a special story for me, one I didn’t mind reciting over and over. I am as tied to Orion as my namesake Diana was.
I haven’t seen Orion since I came to Michigan. And I do miss the security of knowing he circles above me as I sleep. I strain my eyes to try to find his outline, his famed belt of stars. But the view from the deck is restricted – tall old oak and walnut trees and a scattering of clouds perhaps blocking his form.
The night air was brisk, too cold for light clothes and the thin blanket. I stayed as long as I could, hoping Orion would appear, but the chill and the thoughts of an exhausting tomorrow changed my mind. One last good night to the moon, I moved into the darkness of the bedroom.
Climbing into bed, I pulled the blankets close around my cold body. The moonlight had moved on, away from the window, shining somewhere else, on someone else. I turned from the clock, not wanting to know the time, not wanting to count the hours left before I needed to be awake, responsible. My mind was quieted from sitting with the moon, my heart at peace feeling all was right in the universe, and my soul, comforted, and hopeful somewhere far above this home here in Michigan, Diana’s great love Orion still circles.