Updated: Jan 2, 2021
By Susan Hadden, copyright 2020
As I walked back to where I parked at the Barnegat Lighthouse, detouring onto the less scenic path through scrub pines in want of shelter from the wind and with the moon low and full at my back where I left it on the beach, I declared a full sentence in my head or aloud into my scarf, “That was a fun outing!!” The word ‘outing’ made me think instantly of my friend Woody. Adventures in the life-sharing community where he is supported in his unique needs are called ‘outings’. It’s the perfect word and conjures getting prepared, marching through an interesting change of scenery, and then returning to where you belong, which is just what I needed between Christmas and New Years that I spend alone. So I thought of Woody and how he would have loved this outing designed to see the full moon rise over the Atlantic. I assumed he remained in his community six hours away where he has been in relative isolation all year during the pandemic. He calls me when he visits his sister for Holidays, who lives near me, and we go on tireless adventures in and around Philadelphia two or three times a year. But calls and outings ceased a year ago after his last visit.
There are few people I enjoy outings with more than Woody, as he and I have no time limit on how long we can explore a little corner of the City or stare at someone’s craftsmanship as we wonder and discuss how a piece at the Center for Wood in Art or in Wharton Esherick’s house was made. He would have loved watching the moon rise. I cut it close, arriving after two hours of driving and a couple miscommunications from Siri, and guessing where I could even park legally to get to a beach. The young man with frost bitten cheeks who pumped my gas en route said he always goes to his favorite place, the lighthouse, and that I could park there. I pulled in with an inch of space between sun and horizon in front of me and found a paved path on the stone rip-rap embankment along the inlet leading to the ocean. I walked until it ended then ducked through the railing to continue hopping from one flat monolith to the next, checking the sun’s schedule behind me so I could catch the earliest glimpse of the moon rising above a band of clouds low to the horizon. Sun just down indicated the moon must be present. Turning back, a ghost of a pale round disk hung in front of me, so faint it seemed my imagination, and like only a handful of us on the whole east coast who were likewise straining could possibly see what I saw. I cried at the sight from some combination of its glory and my efforts to get there on time that actually paid off in this etheric vision I intended but hadn’t imagined in these specifics.
As I continued on the path to the parking lot, my phone chirped with an incoming call, I assumed from one of my kids to whom I had sent photos of the ghost moon. I pulled it from my backpack with gloved hand and saw Woody’s name. This stuff happens to me all the time, more so years ago when I was on a free-form journey to reset my path. I wrote about many of the odd synchronicities that guided my adventure, though they were too numerous and constant to document all of them in those days that included volunteering in the wood-shop of the community where Woody lives and makes his genius woodworking creations.
We had a long phone call in the shelter of my parked car, reviewing about how we missed outings and would not be able to get together even as he had managed to get to his sister’s and was nearby for the holidays; and that we were ok and would resume when we could. He recalled that it was on New Year’s Day a year ago that we were at one of our favorite places – the top of Liberty place - which has dynamic full-circle views over the city and beyond, all the way to the shore, especially at sunset for which Woody has inscrutably figured out the perfect schedule, and narrated on a recorded loop by a friend of mine for some bonus magic. Woody says he wants to live to be 100 and to take really good care of himself, and to be a good person, all of which I assure him he is right on track to accomplish. He doesn’t know that I had just been just thinking of him, though I told him about my moon outing. He said he also watched the moon rise. Siri took me on a rural route home towards the fading afterglow in the western sky, the magic of the evening having restored faith and peace for this day that hangs between two Holidays.
full moon up, to left of boat