the dark moon


March first, the beginning of the month that brings spring, in theory, feels like just another tarnished day in winter. The cold is relentless. It might be 24 degrees today; right now, it is 19. It snowed a little last night, and more snow is said to be coming.

My brother’s wife just posted this morning on Facebook that they had to put their dog down, prompting me to make a teary phone call to her voicemail. Part wolf and always wired a teensy bit wrong, the dog was a gift as a puppy to my brother from his dear friend, dead over a decade now from stomach cancer. His skeptical dog, soft and furry but never–by the look in his eye–quite approachable, guarded my brother’s family for years and is fiercely protective of my two little nieces. As he aged, he got more and more crabby, as we all do, but seemed fine. Then last week something startled him into a blind rage and he bit the oldest child, leaving bloody puncture wounds in her arm.

Something had to be wrong with the dog, right? You don’t just lash out at someone you’ve always loved and protected without something being terribly wrong? Maybe his brain was going. Maybe he didn’t know what he was doing. The thought unspoken: maybe he was sick of his children and his family. Maybe he was sick to death of winter, that house, his life, the food in his bowl. Maybe he just wanted to bite someone. Barricaded inside, unable to run in a yard full of four-foot snowdrifts in this terrible New England winter, he snapped.

This is the barren season. In our house, here in the frozen midwest, it has been so cold outside for so long, and we have just been hanging on to jobs that barely help make ends meet. We are all growing sick of this life. M has been so certain, so close to certain, that the department she interviewed with two weeks ago would invite her to campus. Think of the possibilities! Imagine that this long sojourn in the desert without a tenured job or even job security would end! Imagine one of us (her) with security, and the other with full-time work (me)! Living in an affordable place, a warm place, with more than 70 dollars in the bank until next Friday!

Alas, the month ended this week, and with it dwindles the hope we had that this scraping existence of renewable instructorships (her) and part-time piecemeal work (me) would miraculously transform into something happier, more secure, more satisfying. Still, no word. Maybe that department just doesn’t have it together? Maybe they will at least let her know next week, one way or another? Outside the window I hear shovels scraping snow off the gravel. Inside, the steam radiators whistle and moan. It is so cold, the air comes in under the floorboards and freezes my feet.

After she was denied tenure, M got a lawyer, and she and her lawyer became friends. Her lawyer, an old hippie-activist type, told her about a ritual she did every month at the new moon. She takes out her checkbook and writes a check to herself for the amount “paid in full,” and signs it Law of Abundance. She swears this makes good things come to you, especially money, but other things as well. A couple of years ago one of my coworkers did it at my urging, and her grandfather spontaneously gave her ten thousand dollars. Nothing like that has ever happened to us, but it’s a good story. And so, every new moon, we dutifully take out our checkbooks, and hope.

Today is the new month, the new season, the new moon. The calendar tells us it is the new moon, but we know in our bones it is not yet here. This is still the old moon, you see, and it feels like the old moon, the old year, the old season. Sometime this so-called new moon is called the dark moon. Though they are conflated on your calendar, in older times they were two separate occurrences. Wikipedia tells us that maritime records from the 19th century distinguished the dark moon, when no moon was visible against the backdrop of the sky, from the new moon, the first hopeful sliver. If the dark moon is the old moon, the new moon is the young moon. This is the time when promise remains indistinguishable, hidden against the dark. The young moon, the “real” new moon, is not here yet.

No one want to be tricked into being hopeful, but we bless the tiniest sliver of evidence that makes us feel as if our wishes might, just maybe might come true this time. This old moon is still with us, and the promising new moon isn’t going to come this time without dragging the old one with her, its shadow snagged on her bright raiment. This is how it always is. This is how it has always been.

Today is March first. March first is an order. March first, think later. Feel later. Lose it when spring finally comes, when a job finally comes, when you can smell things again, when the darkness seems a little less overwhelming. Just keep going. And write your check to the Law of Abundance.