Full Moon by the Wetland

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FlomaxFew of my closest male friends still get up in the middle of the night. Most have had surgery or are on Flomax. They sleep through the night. While they’re sleeping, I’m getting up three of four times, on a good night. Last night it was five!

You might think they’re luckier than I am. But sometimes, like last night when I got up five times, there’s a blessing to it. There are windows on three sides of the loft. On a clear night, I look out and up at Orion’s belt — it’s always there — and feel all’s right with the world. I saw Orion belt again last night, but there was a brighter blessing – a full moon throwing a wide swath of moonlight across the wetland onto the yard and through the cabin’s windows.

SupermoonThe swath of light shifted with each trip down the handcrafted maple staircase the A-frame’s builder — a Saint Paul fireman — had rescued before the old firehouse was torn down. It’s a beautiful work of art, and, when the evening sun or a full moon shines its light on the maple, those who see it can’t help but be thankful the old fireman rescued it from its fateful trip to the landfill. The angle of the light moves with the moon to create changing patterns formed by the light from above and the different shaped shadows cast by the thin, leaf bare birches and aspens, and by the bigger oaks and maples whose leaves have not yet fallen — each of the five trips up and down the staircase unlike the one before. I thought of all my friends who no longer need to make trips in the night because of surgery or Flomax, or the end of their time under the full moon among the trees and wetlands. 

Someday I’ll make my last trip down that stairwell, but the blessing of the full moon in late October 2018 will stay as long as my memory holds out — an heavenly taste of earth, an experience of the Ineffable, a non-Flomax night of bliss!

After brewing a pot of coffee this morning, I turn my attention back to the book I’d been reading before bed, Marilynne Robinson’s Gideon, the story of a dying old preacher writing a memoir for his young son. I come to a page that speaks of what I felt seeing the full moon. “I am trying to decide,” says the Reverend John Ames, “what I have never before put into words. … It was one day while listening to baseball that it occurred to me how the moon actually moves, in a spiral, because while it orbits the earth, it also follows the orbit of the earth around the sun. This is obvious, but the realization pleased me. There was a full moon outside my window, icy white in a blue sky, and the Cubs were playing Cincinnati.”

Crosley Field

Crosley Field, 1969, home of the Cincinnati Reds

Funny thing about that. Years ago, as a youth, I, like Reverend John Ames — and maybe John’s creator, Marilynne Robinson, listened to Cincinnati Reds radio broadcasts before drifting off to sleep hundred miles away.  The broadcasts came through clear as a bell in Broomall, Pennsylania. There were nights when the Cubs — or my Phillies — were playing Cincinnati.

  • Gordon C. Stewart by the wetland after a full moon, October 23, 2018.

The Burning Bush and Alzheimer’s

Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, OH

Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, OH

It had been three years since I’d seen Polly.

“Mom’s had a heart attack,” said Polly’s daughter. “She’s at Christ Hospital. There’s really no reason to visit. Most days she doesn’t even know me anymore.”

For eleven years we had shared the same church in Cincinnati. Polly had been chair of the Pastor Search Committee that invited me to candidate for the position of Pastor at Knox Presbyterian Church, and over the years the times together over cocktails and dinner had been frequent before we moved to Minneapolis.

I walk into her room in the cardiac care center expecting nothing.

I say her name. She opens her eyes and stares. “Well, Gordon Campbell Stewart, what are you doing here?”

“Well, that’s not the question. The question is what are you doing in a place like this?” We both chuckle, as we so often had done over something that had struck our shared funny bone.

She asks about the boys and how things are in Minneapolis. She’s clear as a bell for a good three minutes until she goes away to wherever people with Alzheimer’s go when they’ve had enough of consciousness.

Buried somewhere deep in the depths of Alzheimer’s are sacred memories that bubble up for a just a moment before they slip back down into the reservoir from which they’ve been drawn. When they bubble up, we know we are standing on holy ground. The bush is burning but it is not consumed.

The Hitch-hiker and the Cop

Three college classmates who didn’t have two nickels to rub together decided to hitch-hike to B.T. Biggart’s home in Reynoldsburg, OH for the Thanksgiving holiday.

One of the rides was like the one in Steve Shoemaker’s story “Hitch-hiking” posted just minutes ago here on Views from the Edge. The three of us sat in the back seat of the driver’s big 1960 Ford 500 while he and his buddy passed the bottle between them, belted out country music, and swapped stories about women that are un-publishable. Eventually, by the grace of God, they dropped us off on the interstate in downtown Cincinnati.

Soon after we had stuck out our thumbs on the Interstate about 3:00 a.m., a Cincinnati squad car pulled over.

The officer asked for identification.

I had no wallet. My wallet was back at the college.

The officer declared that he could take me in for vagrancy.

“What’s your name, son?”

“Gordon Stewart, Sir,” I answered with my heart pumping faster and my knees about to buckle.

“Where you from, Gordon?”

“Broomall, Pennsylvania, Sir.”

“What’s your father do?”

“He’s a minister.”

“What church?”

“Marple Presbyterian Church in Broomall where I grew up.”

What kind of church?”

“Presbyterian.”

“What’d you say your name was?”

“Gordon Stewart.”

“Did your father serve in World War II?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where did he serve?”

“Saipan, Guam, and Tinian in the South Pacific.”

(PAUSE)

“What branch of the service was your father in on Guam?”

“Army Air Force, Sir. He was a chaplain.”

“What’s your father’s first name?”

“Kenneth – Kenneth Campbell Stewart.”

“O my!!! After all these years! Red Stewart! Chappy Stewart! Well, I’ll be darned!

“You can go son. Just get a ride out of here as soon as you can. God bless you.”

So the cop who could have taken me in for vagrancy celebrated a vicarious reunion with his old Chaplain while we hitch-hiked to B.T Biggart’s for Thanksgiving – thankful for a serendipitous rescue from the boys in the Ford 500 and from the holding cell for vagrants.

Thanks, Dad! And thanks, Officer Anonymous! I never got his name. Grace abounds…even when you have no money and no identification.