Last night I dreamed I looked up into the night sky and saw suspended there an enormous moon.
This moon wasn’t just, “Hey, look at this big moon.” This moon was so huge I could hardly describe how huge it was. It looked like it was very, very close to Earth, like if I held a dinner plate out at arm’s length in front of my face, the edge of the moon would still stick out all around it. I could see craters, and here and there I saw pink and orange, as though someone had brushed very watered-down watercolors over part of the moon’s surface.
I called to the people around me.
“Look at the moon!” I said. “It’s enormous! You can see the craters! And it’s got colors on it! I didn’t know there was any color on the moon. It’s always just moon-colored in the pictures.”
The people around me looked reluctantly at the moon, loathe to set aside their activities. They were unimpressed.
“Sure,” they said, already turning their faces away from the sky. “It’s a full moon. It’s pretty big, but why are you going on about it like that?”
When I looked back, I saw a full moon partially hidden behind the trees across the cemetery. It was a big full moon, but it wasn’t anything like the moon I’d seen before. I could no longer see the huge moon because now I was seeing the moon through the eyes of the people around me. I could remember that huge moon, but it was no longer in front of me. Not only could I not pass the image on to other people, but the image was lost to me as well.
This is what writing feels like to me. I have something huge, enormous, amazing to share. I put it into words and it either falls flat or becomes something else in other people’s minds, but it never stays as big and beautiful and incredible as it was to start out.
It’s also in a lot of ways how motherhood feels to me. Today is both Mother’s Day and my daughter’s birthday, and I’ve been thinking of when I was pregnant with her and those first months of motherhood. Until the time of our first ultrasound about 18 weeks into my pregnancy, my relationship with my daughter had been boundless. She was a being I knew intimately and who knew me just as intimately. We existed in a realm that transcended the physical, seen world. We knew each other on a level I’ve never known anyone before, except maybe my own mother.
But as the bored ultrasound tech moved the transducer over my lubed-up belly, a grainy image of my daughter appeared on the screen and that feeling of the transcendent snapped into corporeality. She was still in my belly, but she was also on the screen and she was no longer mine in the same way she had been. There was this being I knew on an infinite soul level confined to the boundaries of a monitor.
I get glimpses of the transcendent nature of my relationship with my children, but now I guard those glimpses. I hold them close and, if I mention them at all, I try to describe them simply—the cool of a little hand in mine as we walk up a flight of stairs, the smell of a toddler’s breath in the middle of the night, the sound of small feet running along wet pavement. My photographs of them are often this way, too—bits and pieces, a hand here, an eyebrow there, a face in profile, the back of a head bowed in concentration. I try not to capture them in their entirety, and just allow the person I’m telling to piece together her own meaning.
But this doesn’t feel like a connection, and I realize that I write to connect. I sit in front of my computer screen and type a description of a mind-bogglingly enormous moon, and I know that what people envision is a luminous quarter in the corner of a dark sky.
My words are not enough, but they’re what I have. So I keep trying.