Updated: Apr 5, 2021
I have discovered the sky.
One of the things I relish about being in Arizona is not just how clear the sky is, but how vast it is. Here, we can see almost horizon to horizon, with the beautiful red rocks of Sedona to the north charming themselves into the sky without hiding many stars. As a result, I’ve become much more sky-aware, and one of my favorite discoveries is encountering the moon in mid-afternoon. Who knew it was out at that time? Marjorie and I go for a walk each day at around 3pm, and I'm delighted and amazed at how often the moon is visible at this time, whether as a sliver of light or a complete orb. For me, there's an unnameable presence to the moon whatever her phase is, and whether I see the moon at night or in daylight, I feel I'm in the presence of mystery.
On this particular afternoon, the almost-half moon appears in between two unique cloud formations - the puffy roundish yin-like puffs on the right, and the angular edge of a cloud-knife on the left. And the darker areas of the moon itself appears as blue as the sky, rather than gray, giving the impression that the moon was half-translucent itself.
The experiences I'm having here in nature are inviting me to reflect on nature as vibrant, mysterious, presence as much as a place and time, plants and rocks. Nature invites me, with silence and observation, to encounter Her as living whole, to become as quiet as She is. What do I mean by quiet? I don't mean ordinary silence. I mean an absence of noise, which enables the sounds of the natural world to make their music without the sounds of "civilization."
It's notable that Buddhists often speak of the "sky of mind," a metaphor that points toward the vibrant inner silence we can experience in meditation and nature if we drop our inner narratives. This requires us to dial up our listening - to listen to the silence and the often-subtle sounds of the natural world instead of just thinking that nothing is going on. What is the "nothing is happening"? It's the moon and clouds painting the sky, the wind breathing through the grasses, the sunlight setting the stage, moment by moment, scene by scene.
And who are we? The audience? An actor? The story and the absence of story?
While this photo was taken in daylight, most of the time we encounter the moon at night. One of the remarkable things about living in this part of Arizona is how dark the nights are. At night, there’s almost no light pollution since Sedona and Flagstaff are both “Dark Night Communities” where it’s actually illegal to have bright outdoor house lights that shine out sideways. This done both to enhance the health benefits of the natural rhythm of sunrise and sunset, and to support work of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, where the planet Pluto was discovered in 1930.