Hints of Moonlight
I met my neighbor the other evening for a spur of the moment drink at the local pub. We’ve developed a friendship in the last few years, both being transplants into an area that boasts plenty of third and fourth generation families. And because we share a commitment to sustainable living, and we have toddlers of the same age. From afar perhaps that is where our similarities stop. She is of African heritage. I am German/Scandinavian. She can talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything. I’ve been known to have trouble keeping a conversation going with my own spouse about things that really matter to me. Both of her parents have passed away. Mine are thriving and visit often. She has experienced life in several cultures, including life as a refugee. I did a semester abroad in college and all things considered, it was pretty tame. She’s seen suffering and has known the kind of fear and heartache that I can’t even begin to imagine.
We sat down at the bar and ordered drinks and fries. We chatted about the kids, the garden, the weather. She joked with the bartender, we laughed. She shared that she’s been in a dark place, that things are overwhelming and that she isn’t sure how to shake off the shroud. I listened. She spoke of loss, and feelings of failure and asked what my biggest fears are. I tried to answer and couldn’t come up with much. She talked about the sensation of feeling trapped and about how the abundant choices that color life in America make it harder to live in gratitude. I listened. I agreed. I said I understood when I did understand. Sometimes I didn’t. She told me pieces of her story that were buried deep, yet remained visible, like the dirt under an avid gardener’s fingernails. I didn’t get all the details. I said “it’s ok” when her eyes threatened to spill over. She apologized. I said I thought it was ok to feel whatever she needed to feel. She asked if I really meant it when I invited her to share what she needed to share. I said yes. I meant it. She wondered how to figure out who she really is. I said, “I wonder that, too.”
At the end of the night I drove her back to her house, and she picked her way across a moonlit yard strewn with parts of remodeling projects and plastic toys. All of the questions remained. We hadn’t come to any huge revelations or profound solutions to fix what feels wrong. We hadn’t accomplished anything concrete, and she was still feeling adrift. Darkness has a way of lingering despite our best efforts to push it away.
As she was getting out of the car she thanked me for being there. For listening. Driving home down the gravel road we share, I wondered if it was enough.
I looked up as I got out of the car and was reminded that light has a way of showing up when darkness lingers too long, even if it’s just a hint of moonlight in an ink black sky rolling with cloud cover. Maybe a few hours on bar stools is enough to invite light to take a seat close enough to soften some of the inky black into shadow.