Monday, September 21, 2009


The moist overcastness of today was almost a shock, as were the few spatterings of rain, since we've had nothing but clear blue skies and sunshine for almost four weeks. Yikes! It is about to be autumn, in a few hours. I'm not ready!!

With the new moon, and the momentousness of both Rosh Hashana and Eid (the end-of-Ramadan celebration) this weekend, as well as the equinox, everything feels full of meaning, a turning-point and a time to be especially attentive. Because of the new moon, on Saturday night, after a crystalline day, the sky was alive with every star possible. No wonder the ancients marvelled and studied the night sky. What could be more astonishing and miraculous? We in the modern industrialised world have other distractions and so we often miss out on the essentials. They, the ancients, lived face-to-face with the vastness of the universe every clear night. And on Saturday might it was so clear up in the lovely unlitness of rural Grey County that the Milky Way wasn't a hazy band but instead a number of distinct strands oriented south west to north east, split apart in places so that they trailed off in several ribbons toward the horizon in both directions. When have I ever seen it so clearly?

I looked and looked for the moon, the sliver of the new moon, but never found it, even though it was after 9 by then, so surely it was up?!

Perhaps, you'll say, you were hallucinating? Maybe the Milky Way wasn't so marvellous, it's just that you were in an altered state? Perhaps. But I don't think so, despite the fact that the late afternoon had been quite astonishing, with a long intense sauna at Jon and Lillian's: inside in the intense dry heat, outside into the chill of early evening air and the trees all around, back in for another even deeper and more penetrating dose of heat, the air burning up into my nostrils, and so on. Finally we all dashed for the car and drove the half mile to the river. In we went, into moving rippling water that carried us along, practically singing with exhilaration, the bottom clear, the water completely transparent, the sky equally limpid above. We waded slowly out, laughing with pleasure. My bones felt warm, my whole body too, except that my skin was sharply tingling with that "I am alive!" tingle that the best and luckiest sauna can give. Steam drifted off us as we stood in the road, the sun aimed straight down it from due west, our shadows crisp and long in the golden dust.

Later, on our way back into the city under that spangled sky, Ian and I talked about the shape of things in the house, the way Dom and Tashi and Ian share cooking and cleaning and how best to communicate about it all so everyone feels equally responsible and equally appreciated. It's about reciprocity, I think, and that seems to be a good thing to think about as we who live here at 45 degrees north hit the equilibrium point in the year and start to tilt (slide? creep?) toward winter.

Reciprocity is equal connection, balance, mutuality. When we're assured of it, we relax. When it's not there we feel resentful or angry, or we withdraw. It's not about alternating who pays for coffee each time we go out (though it can be I guess), but instead it's about loosely but clearly maintaining a sense of that balance of giving and taking in a relationship.

Sometimes there is no obvious balance. Sometimes the gift that we are given is so precious, like the gift of time in the magical post-sauna river, that there is no specific equivalent to balance it. But that's not the point. In the larger and longer arc of a long friendship, it's the sharing of wonder that becomes the precious gift, and sharing is by definition reciprocal, isn't it?

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