Of moons and worlds to come

By anna blaedel

Tonight, the first sliver of a new moon will emerge in the night sky.

For as long as I can remember, finding the moon in the night sky has been an orienting practice. Grounding, comforting. Harvest moons, glowing orange and full on the horizon. Crescent slivers waxing into full, bright spheres, waning into darkness. My grandma then mom used to sing a lullaby about the moon being a silver cradle, rocking way up in the sky, keeping company with nighttime candle stars. My youngest niece, knowing only an early bedtime, marveled at her first glimpse of a full moon, dubbing it, with breathless wonder, the “night Sun.” A former student gave me a framed piece of art she made that sits on my altar, with lines from an Andrea Gibson poem: “I am not the type to mistake a streetlight for the moon.”

When I was starting high school–a terrified and lonely baby queer desperate for belonging, and unable to feel at home in my body, my being, my community because of toxic untruths I was steeped in–an earth science unit on astronomy included making a star chart of the night sky, and instructions from the teacher to go outside, look up, and get to know the stars. That unit might well have saved my life. For the next few years I would drive my family’s rusted old ‘81 Volvo wagon out onto central Iowa’s gravel roads and into cornfield pulloffs, climb on top of the roof, and stretch out under the sky. Stargazing in the dark, I could feel at home. The night sky archived my prayers of fear, grief, and longing.

I sought solace there in the wake of the murderous violence that stole the lives of James Byrd Jr. and Matthew Shepard, and tried to dream a world where white supremacy and anti-queer, masculinist rage were suffocated, and we–marked for violence by the dominant ideologies spewed from pulpits and politicians and parents–could live and love and breathe free. The moon and stars kept me company, easing the terrifying fear of a future that felt beyond possibility.

During that unit I learned of the Cosmic Campground in New Mexico–the first Dark Sky Sanctuary in North America–a campground offering 360-degree views of the night sky, more than 40 miles away from the closest significant artificial light. I dreamt of going there, and stretching out under the stars; I couldn’t yet imagine, however, surviving that far into the future.

For the last two years, I’ve been using a gorgeous Dreaming the World to Come planner to keep time with my morning spiritual practice–writing down bits from dreams, glimmers from tarot pulls, prayers of gratitude and grief, moments arising during meditation. This lunar calendar, separate from my calendar filled with meetings and medical appointments and deadlines, invites me into a different kind of time. Olam haBa, the world to come, is the vision, the dream, of what Olam haZeh, this world, can become when we honor sacred wisdoms, ancient and emergent. The queer, radical, mystical Jews who create and offer this planner describe the vision of Olam haBa as including, “Reparations, Land Back, a Free Palestine, abolition of police and prisons, Disability Justice, Reproductive Justice, Climate Justice, queer and trans liberation, and a world where all bodies and beings are treated as sacred.” Amen. Dreaming a world of belonging and kinship, reciprocity and redistribution, freedom and home, shared surviving and thriving

According to the Jewish calendar, this new moon ushers in the month of Kislev. Kis, meaning pocket. Lev, meaning heart. This is a “heart pocket” month. During Kislev, the Torah portions read on Shabbat are filled with stories of dreams. Hadar Cohen writes that this month of lengthening nights, deepening darkness issues heart-full invitations to feel, and dream. To deepen into the knowing that comes from heart, and gut, and intuition. Before Kislev came Cheshvan, a month marked by decomposition and decay, what Dori Midnight calls “the generative work of death.” Describing the concentrated suffering–and resulting bitterness–of needs going unmet for too long, Midnight notes how bitter flavor can also wake us up and deepen our capacity to taste, feel, and be alive. “What would it be like to open to the bitterness, let it linger on our tongues, awaken our hunger for something otherwise?”

Last night’s new moon happened to mark, too, my birthday. Over this last month, between new moons, I have been paying deep attention to the medicine offered by the moon’s filling and emptying: tending and shedding what no longer serves me; metabolizing bitterness that was accumulating and concentrating; rerooting in the endarkened wisdoms nurtured through lineages and legacies shaped in and through Blackness, indigeneity, transness, queerness, disability, earthiness–sacred wisdoms that have long whispered otherwise possibilities for aliveness.

Anna Blaedel (they/them) is cofounder and co-director enfleshed, where they tend to the theopoetic intersections of spiritual, academic, and activist engagement. Anna chaplains University of Iowa students, and is a doctoral candidate in Theological and Philosophical Studies at Drew University’s Graduate Division on Religion. Waking before dawn, lingering in poetry, being an aunt, retreating to the woods or their basement woodshop, tending the garden, sharing silence, and feeding people delicious food are some of Anna’s favorite things.

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