"People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering." - St. Augustine

     

MOONLIGHT RAMBLES

"When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers-the moon and the stars you have set in place -what are mortals that you should think of us, mere humans that you should care for us? For you made us only a little lower than God, and you crowned us with glory and honor." - Psalm 8:3-5

There is a park in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where we once lived. It's called the Arboretum, but the locals affectionately call it the "Arb." My son, who worked nights, often went there in the early morning hours after finishing his shift. He walked there to watch the sunrise. While the town lay silent and sleeping, he embraced the solace of the night.

As he made his way to the park, he passed by a cemetery where pale gravestones seemed to stretch like icy fingers against the ebony sky. Alone, in his wanderings, these seemed ominous and threatening. As he hurried past, he chided himself for letting ghostly memories of childhood intrude on his grownup rambling.

Eventually after walking down a darkened tree-covered path, he would arrive at the bowl-a valley in the center of the park, surrounded by hills and trees. Here, he would sit in solitude waiting for the black curtain of night to surrender itself to the crimson tinged shadows of morning.

Many years later, he recalled this story for me and shared how the memory of these moonlight rambles lingered within him. This retreat into the secrets of the night was a time of wonder. Looking at the glory of the nighttime sky and the miracle of sunrise, he was able to examine details that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. Every nuance of shade and subtle change of tone as the sky rolled from black to violet, to red, to orange, to gold was a kaleidoscopic miracle. Finally after the last finale of this panoramic display, the world was illuminated, glittering with the opportunities presented by a fresh, new day.

As he sat in awe of all the beauty God had made, he took stock of his life considering his place in the world. It was a moment of magic for an artistic young man. It left an indelible stamp on his soul that he carried into the music and paintings that he creates as an adult.

For me, a woman living in the suburbs outside of a busy city, I would be afraid to venture alone into the isolation of a nighttime park. Yet in my own way, I take moonlight rambles. While one-by-one lights go out in the houses across the street and the stars twinkle brighter as the world around them grows blacker, I wander through the silent house. Turning off a light here, plumping up a pillow there, I check the locks on all the doors and put books and magazines back in their proper places. I comfort myself with these familiar bedtime rituals. Like an over-wound clock spring, slowly I uncoil and embrace the quiet of the house.

Once certain all is in order, I climb the stairs. Pausing at the top step, I survey the loft library that is my studio. A favorite room, I enter and sit at the timeworn oak library table that serves as my desk. There surrounded by well-loved books, photos and other favorite mementos, I stare out at the darkened sky. Calmed by the familiar touchstones that mark the ending of my day, I allow myself time for wonder. I notice the graceful swaying of the trees nudged by an evening breeze. I gaze at the silhouette of tall pines stretching majestically up into the sky. I see how the fog rises stealthily out of the dampness of the night. I marvel at the beauty of the evening sky as I watch the shadowy clouds tiptoe past the moon. The lines of an old hymn echo in my heart and I sing, "O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the world Thy hands have made. I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder . . . and I say, 'My God, how great Thou art.'"

Wrapped in this moonlight spell, it's curious how I can see myself more clearly. There are no graveyards hovering near, but there are ghosts of hurried, misspent days that need to be banished. Alone and quiet with my thoughts, I marvel that a God so great could love me so.

"Father, tonight as I end my day with you, please cover my sins with the cloak of your forgiveness. Now in this moment of stillness, when I let go of the day's cares and ease into the sanctuary of the night, I want to thank you for your mercy and comfort. Let me carry this peace into tomorrow. Leave the indelible mark of your grace on my life, so that others who see me will behold you living within me.