Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

What We See When We Look


I keep thinking back to the blood-red-moon eclipse.

When I walked outside at 10 pm in my current neighborhood, usually pretty quiet on a Sunday eve, it was bustling. Crowds of folks stood smack in the middle of streets, sharing beers and good cheer; kids were running around in their pajamas; sidewalk benches were filled; even the many self-directed outdoor cats seemed poised to watch.

And all were watching, heads tilted upward at the darkened moon and its thin-crescent-light edge.

Everyone also had cameras, which were watching too, as if eyeglasses between the human onlookers and the performative moon. It wasn’t just cell-phone cameras either. People had brought out tripods and enormously long lenses, still and video camera, and an assortment of binoculars and telescopes.

I stood outside for about an hour, alternating between watching the moon and watching people watch the moon through their lenses. They also seemed just as interested in chatting away merrily with each other. It was one of those rare times when there seems to be a shared, joyful, open secret drawing unwavering bonds of affection between one and all, humans and cats and moon. (And cameras.) As if people have no need for spaces made by and for commodification or control but insteads take pleasure merely from the natural world of which we’re a small, small part.

Still, many a conversation seemed to revolve around each others’ chosen type of camera, with lots of ohhs and ahhs, questions about whether folks had gotten good pictures, and shared, communal peeks through each others mechanical devices at the tiny dot of a blurry moon in the lens (which later, no doubt, many would post to their Facebook pages, evidence certain of the social and natural world).

At one point, to get a better view, I moved away from streetlamps and stood at the edge of one of the many well-used alleyways. I could see cats in the darkened passage ahead of me, standing alert and seemingly staring up as well.

The moon grew magnificent! The cats and I sighed (or purred) with delight.

A woman walking by saw me and decided to stand alongside for a bit.

“It’s incredible, isn’t it?” she said.

“Yes,” I agreed.

“I tried to take a photo of it. But it didn’t work,” she explained to me. Then there was a pause, as we shared stillness, night sky, moon.

“You know,” she observed, “maybe once-in-a-lifetime moments are better simply seen directly, enjoyed, and remembered with one’s own eyes.”

We smiled at each other. Crescent smiles, like our real-live moon smiling back at us and the alley cats. And she walked off into the evening.

*   *   *

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(Photo by Cindy Milstein, fragment of a wheatpaste by Red Bandit during Unceded Voices: Anticolonial Street Artists Convergence, Tiotia:ke [so-called Montreal], July 2015.)

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This entry was posted on September 29, 2015 by in Dispatches from Life.
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