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My Moon Journal

By Thea Iberall

In the fall of 1998, I purchased a leather-bound journal filled with pages made of hand-made paper. At the same time, I purchased a thin hand-blown glass pen that had to be dipped on ink in order to write with it. As I purchased the Indian ink, I decided to spend the last year of the 20th century writing a journal where I pondered the moon. I had the perfect place to start and end the journal. Every year, during the week around New Year’s Eve, I visited Idyllwild, California. It's a small art community hidden 5,000 feet up in the tall ponderosa pines of the San Jacinto Mountains. It's where I would start connecting to the moon. Out in nature, in a cabin in the woods, beneath the towering Taquitz Peak, away from the city and the cars. I had exciting visions for this journal. A poetry book would come out of my 365 reflections. I'd wow the world with musings on how ancient peoples looked at the moon, how it influenced their lives. I'd figure out a way to magnificently tie those writings into insights for our lives in the upcoming 21st century. A publisher would shower the world with my brilliance. I'd get a Pulitzer Prize for sure. In the end, all I got was one poem. I have to say I was disappointed. But, of course, that is the way with expectations. I had started the project with a dream, a fantasy, and high hopes. When I completed the year and saw what I had, I was disappointed because I wanted more. The dreams rambled off, leaving me wallowing in failure. But maybe it was enough. It's a lovely poem. It captures the essence of my year. In order to create it, I transcribed all the journal writings into one file, and then I pulled out the most intriguing lines and molded them into the poem. The poem went into my poetry book, The Sanctuary of Artemis, which was published in 2011.

Why be disappointed by the poem? If I had approached the project with expectancy, then I would have been open to what emerged. I would have been accepting of the results. I would have had joy around the experience of creating a beautiful poem instead of disappointment that it wasn't something else. So, letting go of expectations, embracing expectancy. Then one isn't disappointed. That's my lesson.

Or is it? While rummaging around for sacred objects to put into a photo the other day, I came across my moon journal. After I took the photo, I realized I haven't read it in about 20 years. So I started rereading. This time without expectations. I am stunned. The stories of what happened that year, the insights I had. I was reading the Iliad and the Odyssey, even trying to read them in ancient Greek. At the same time, a good friend was going through cancer treatment; I sat in hospice with another. I was also in the throes of developing the novel I had started a few years earlier, and I was in graduate school facing teachers ripping my writing to shreds. So today, what's my real lesson? It's like I'm looking into a window of who I once was, reading old thoughts and concerns with such immediacy. I can read it with old and new eyes because I am a different person now. This is the beauty of journaling. I have a brand-new opportunity to redo something I once tried to do. I wrote this journal to learn something about how ancient people lived in their world. I now have an opportunity to time shift, to see my own spiritual growth, to learn how I've lived in my world. As I floundered looking for answers from up in the sky, the answers were right in front of me. But I couldn't see them. And now, I get to redo what I tried to do, but this time without expectations.

by Thea Iberall

Maenads, wild lunatics

knew the moon was full

without the science of men

it meant something more

than the small lights in the sky – call them stars –

this Orion, these clusters of characters

a theatrical play, a battlefield,

as they sat stoned to fires accruing stories

for the chasing beams

the waxing moon

so tuned to women

by the rivers birthing men and creeping

a Muse speaks

through this pen pure

glass that warms in the hand I know

the moon is full I looked

it up it does not grow

dim it waters the fields out there

always out there

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Thank you. It brought home for me expectancy. We were talking yesterday about the difference between expectations and expectancy. You certainly clarified it for me. I run into what I expect way too many times. So thank you.

  • Expectations can cloud our thinking.

  • Thank you. It’s amazing when we look back from a different point of view. Recently, I looked at my journal from 2006. That was at the time when my son became estranged from me. It goes through that whole journey. Something had to happen in order to disrupt where we were. It did disrupt my life and I learned I could not do this alone. Up until that time, I could handle whatever came my way. That time started my spiritual growth. Looking back, it was a blessing, but it didn’t feel like one at that time.

  • Things that look like the end of the world, you never know how much you’ll learn from it and what you will get out of it.

  • Thank you for the reading and the poem. Both were very beautiful. I was thinking about parenthood. When a woman is pregnant, they say she is expecting. How much better it would be if we said it’s an expectancy. We put these ideas in our heads of what we expect of our children and it doesn’t pan out. If we looked at them with expectancy, how much better it all would be. Yesterday, I shredded a boxful of journals in order to clean the slate, to have a fresh start and focus on expectancy. It’s about being present to the moment because we are open to the moments as they come rather than expecting. So thank you.

  • Today’s reading was very rich. Thank you. It brings up a question for me of where do I put my passion. When those passions rise up, it’s a fine line not putting it into an expectation. To take that passion and navigate it toward expectancy. It can bring more joy than the pain of having something look a certain way. I’m just looking at the relationship between passion, the use of my passion, and navigating expectancy with passion.

  • It’s about exploring. I am wanting to explore this old journal and I can feel myself thinking I can turn it into this or that. I keep saying no, just explore it, whatever it is, it is.

  • I thought I had mastered expectations and expectancy. I had a shock from an upsetting call last night about my grandchild who is a real victim of the pandemic. She couldn’t handle working at home. She is brilliant and her school record fell apart this year. It may have lifelong implications. We had high expectations for her and how we have to reframe all that in terms of expectancy.

  • It’s tough because you want her to succeed and you see her potential. I hated when my parents said I had great potential. It put expectations on me and it’s hard to let go of that. It’s about appreciating where they are without jumping into the future. It’s about being in the moment with them.

  • Thank you all for joining in today. This was a morning filled with exploration of expectancy and expectations. It’s a good awareness for facing your day. Be gentle and loving with yourselves today. Thank you so much.

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