Ka-chook, ka-chook. Sshhhh. Sshhhh. Ka-chook, ka-chook. The sound of the paddleboard on the flat, calm surface of the water seems too loud in the so-still night air. I paddle farther from the dark sailboats anchored behind me, looking for more quiet. More alone. More space. More uninterrupted moonlight to glide over.
It’s the solstice. I keep thinking it’s the summer solstice, because that’s what’s supposed to happen in June. But here in the southern hemisphere, it’s the shortest day of the year. It’s confusing. So’s the full moon. Somehow, I feel like I’m in two places at once tonight.
It’s probably because of the sudden easy internet access. Yesterday, Facebook, email, blogs, and world news suddenly drew me out of my present and into others’. After almost a month without contact to the outside world, it’s disconcerting. It feels like I have parallell lives: one here in Fakarava, smack in the middle of the ocean at the start of winter. The other in Missoula, surrounded by mountains budding green and bright with the start of summer. It also feels sad, because I want to picture everything in those mountains just as I left it. Like a cupboard neatly stacked, locked frozen in time until I choose to open the doors again.
But life doesn’t work that way. The doors are not mine to open or close.
This full moon is full of change. My loved ones have news of transitions. They are moving to new houses and jobs and towns, and the worst part is that I can’t picture where they are. How they’re sitting on the couch. What their back porch looks like, or the pictures above their new desk. And what happens to the old spaces that they vacate? Or the decade of memories that inhabit those spaces? Is the energy I send to those homes, offices, porches in search of their spirits resting on another person? Weird. Creepy, even.
I stop paddling and stare at the reflection of the moon beyond my little toe. It’s so much smaller reflected on the water than when I look it in the eye. Same goes for the hole in my heart. It’s hard to look longing in the eye. Much easier to peek at it in a rearview mirror, acknowledge it’s general position and then drive the other way. Tonight, though, the moon is holding no prisoners — she’s shoving my longing front and center, telling me to find my anchor rather than drift through fake reflections.
So, I did. I cried tonight. I felt that longing open wide and deep when I saw pictures of the kids looking grown-up, heard my sister’s voice, read that my mom didn’t feel good, reluctantly sent my regrets for not attending a wedding. I took a deep breath, burning down the back of my achy throat. “Look where you are,” I said sternly to myself. “Give thanks for this place, this moment, this moon on this water. The grass is not greener in Montana, merely a different texture.”
Sshhh. Sshhh. I spend a moment on the flat saltwater disengaging my brain and heart from the flurry of my friends, my home, my family back home. I send my love through the wavering moonbeams. And then I paddle back, ka-chook ka-chook, to Wizard, where Rob is drawing pictures of fish and the wonderful couple sharing their boat with us is sleeping soundly.
I paddled through the shortest night of the year on a winter solstice that felt like the warmest summer night I could remember, holding two worlds in the space of a small reflection riding next to my little toe.