I drove home. I followed the moon, it was big and round. All summer I walked east. All summer I spent half of my evenings looking at the moon. Full moon meant walking into the night, walking in the moonlight, putting my tent somewhere in a field and sitting in front of it for a while before going to sleep.
I drove home, the moon seemed to be bigger than it was in summer, but it can’t look bigger now, in summer it was closer to the horizon. Maybe my longing for the walking, for walking under a moon made it look bigger.
I came home and turned on the water, but one of the taps outside, under the house, was broken and I had to shut it off again after I crawled into the foundation structure and filled two big pans. It was late already. I didn’t feel like fixing my watersystem. Tomorrow. Or the day after. Warm water from the tap, even cold water from a tap, is a luxury. It is good to be reminded of that now and then.
Instead of flushing the toilet at least twice all evening, washing my hands a couple of times during cooking, let the tap run to clean my toothbrush and several other moments of unlimited wateruse I used the big spoon to take water from the big pan and pour it over my hands, catching it in another container so I could reuse the now “grey” water. I peed outside in the garden, it is good for the soil and the horses from the neighbouring field don’t mind me doing it. When I turned around I saw the moon again. My heart ached. I went in again to get my coat.
I walked. I walked into the woods all the way to the open field, where heather is growing and on sunny days elderly couples in similar outfits bike across the moor on expensive bikes, where in weekends people come and fly their tiny noisy airplanes, where in the not so far distance you can see cars drive by because they put a road right through this natural area.
But now, at this time of night, there was only air and fog and shadows of trees and plants and the moon, the moon.
Men walked on it. But from here I can’t see their footsteps. It is out of reach, it is extremely far away but so close at the same time. It is walking in Belgium at night with Charles Dickens’ Night Walks in my pocket, it is shouting “la Lua!” with my moon loving friend Mary in Portugal looking out of the window of our studio, a corn filled cobble stone shed in the middle of a village inhabited by 53 people and 3.000 goats. It is walking along the Danube with C. who carried his own solar powered moon-resembling lamp. It is sleepless nights in the mountains in Spain because no way I will go to bed when a full moon sheds a different light on the landscape and the silence is even more tangible than it is during daytime. It is walking in France with Mimi, who dreams of being a clown in Mongolia, who planted dreams all across the United States and with whom I walked on a moonlit night after which I dreamt of a double moon, a double world, of being here and there at the same time. It is reading Jules Verne on the top floor of a hostel in Porto. Walking in Vienna with a tail at night. Crossing the paths of snails carrying the moon on their backs in Sweden. It is walking for 96 days to reach the Nomadic Village in Austria, walking east, seeing the moon rise every evening, following the moon and then arriving on a field where the temporary settlement is slowly growing and the mayor of the village plants a non-stop shining full moon in front of my temporary house to make me feel at home.
Some time ago I read “Moondust. In search of the men who fell to earth”. Andrew Smith interviewed all nine of the still living astronauts who went on the iconic Apollo 11 moon mission. The men who spent time on the moon all had extreme difficulties returning to their normal lives. I remember one of them describing the moment he saw the earth the way I saw the moon last night. Like a round ball, looking small and vulnerable, mysterious and terribly beautiful. It was the most amazing moment of his life. He didn’t know how to continue living afterwards.
I sometimes wonder how to continue living. I know by heart how to do it. It is easy. It is breathing in and breathing out. It is going through your days doing the things you are doing. It is loving and hating and cursing and sighing and laughing and screeming. It is the easiest thing there is. You don’t need skills for it, everybody can do it. In fact, everybody does it.
Living is difficult people say but that isn’t true. Living is easy. But being human is difficult. Because our brain is what makes us human. Our capacity to think makes us human. Our ability to make decisions based on what we think is right or wrong.
And now, writing these words, typing these words, thinking these worlds (mistyping “words”), the world seems to have become small again. It is 15.37 and I sit inside my waterless wooden walls, it is turning dark again outside, the day never seems to have started, grey skies, water falling down (yes, I put some buckets outside). I just watched Georges Melies’ brilliant film “A trip to the Moon”, I laughed, I posted it on Facebook and I chose a song from my computer’s playlist, I chose “These are the vistas”, The Bad Plus, and the world starts growing again. I see the vistas, my borders dissolve, I realise space is everywhere, there is an unlimited amount of it in this house, in this head.
I sit inside while the world is growing and I think about those astronauts again, about how the man who interviewed them said it was a very emotional thing to do “as it involved revisiting a time when significant numbers of people believed that the world could be made better - where innocent optimism was still possible”. It has been on my mind, this line. First I thought that he was right, I thought the secret was in the “innocent”, optimism still being possible but with all the terrible things happening everywhere, it being impossible to still be innocent in it as an intelligent human being. We grew up in dark years with crazy wars and horrible things happening to nature. It isn’t only impossible to believe we can go on like this and still survive, but it became impossible as well to think that we can make big changes and thereby have the guarantee that we will survive. The future turned from bright to grey. The future turned from limitless into small. As small as my world on some days. Determined by walls and windows, determined by the colour of the sky outside, by the hours of the day as in sunlight.
It is on days like this, when I am supposed to do my administration, deal with past projects and write official letters, when I am almost accusing myself of waisting time again on writing something completely different, that I realise that maybe we have to use our time differently in order to make the world the place we want to be again. We have to spent more time on things that give us this feeling of naive optimism, the feeling that everything is still possible, the feeling that we are immortal.
When you are small the world is immense. It is in a leaf of grass, in a drop of water. You build your own house without even thinking if you are capable of doing it, you put a blanket over a table or stack some chairs in a particular order, you can drive a train and live in trees, you survive in the forest, you fly and even though you see people being sick, even die, you know you will be there forever. You don’t doubt. You can’t make mistakes. You draw blue trees and green suns. Until they start teaching you how to do things right.
But a child singing a song about the man in the moon might know more about the moon than the scientists do who researched the rocks that have been collected on its surface, who can measure its speed and its distance from our doorstep.*
Is it impossible to regain this innocent optimism? Did it disappear altogether? Isn’t it still present in every child that gets born and doesn’t it also depend on the goals we are putting up for ourselves?
To be honest I don’t know the answers. I tried to sit on these questions for a bit and formulate an answer but maybe my own focus shouldn’t be there. Maybe I should focus again on my own innocent optimism, my own naive idea that I can make a difference by just walking the world, by following the moon, by having many moons. By walking the questions instead of sitting down to answer them.