New Haven

by James Berger

The election is now, what, three weeks ago. The result is the result. There’s no meaningful opposition, although tens of millions of people believe the result to be illegitimate. The election approached and we climbed to the balcony—making phone calls, writing letters, writhing in anticipated torments, wondering what happens if we lose, what happens if we win. The election came and slid by; I can’t quite tell if my consciousness has been fractured, or how badly.

We’re in a very different place, but we’re also pretty much in the same place: living in a world that is warming calamitously, amid simmering racial conflicts and class inequities, in a society that cannot think with either subtlety or scope. The just and sustainable future is more imaginable, but it has not been imagined yet with any real force.

That’s where we are, which is to say, exactly where we were before. None of this could not have been uttered a year ago, two years ago, four or six years ago. Twenty years. And probably a year or two or four from now, I’ll be able to write the same sentences and they’ll still be true. Well, of course, then there’s also the pandemic. That’s different.

267,000 dead.

Then last night I was out walking, just a bit after nightfall, at maybe six or so. I didn’t go down into the park but walked along the edge of the park, walking north with the park to my right, the forest, then the West River below, then wetlands farther out. The moon had risen, completely full and bright in a clear sky, hovering maybe sixty degrees above the horizon. It was glowing white behind a lattice of winter branches. And below, in the water, glowed its duplicate.

There were two moons, the one below, the wet moon, only negligibly less intense than the moon in the air. I was so amazed and delighted at that double brightness. It seemed impossible. Something, some portion of light, should have been lost in that muddy stream, and yet it all was given back! But what did it teach us? I felt that such extraordinary beauty, a specific beauty of brightness and reflection and pattern, should manifest some true thing. Was there some moral lesson there, something about receptiveness and expression and generosity, the ability to receive, contain, and give, all at the same time?

I don’t know. I know that I saw it. It shone at me and was reflected back in me and from me. I was witness to the two moons. I guess I now must be committed to sustaining them.

What we witness, we’re committed to sustain.

Published on December 7, 2020