On this Full Moon in Cancer I write to you dear reader, from a plane. High in the clouds, feeling snug as a bug in a rug, the plane rather feels like a womb, with all the comforts of business class (upgraded, thanks Jupiter conjunct Sun!). With attendants at our beck and call, offering water, coffee, biscuits, a full meal and liquors of choice (I want to take the reclining chair with lumbar support home) I marvel: could this be any other than a Cancer Full Moon experience? I am warm, comfortable and completely taken care of. And of course, like any Full Moon, it depends on your perspective.
Just yesterday, we visited a 12th century Church in a small Austrian town. Allow me to illustrate, by example, the striking contrast between life in a medieval abbey and modern times. The first thing one notices is the temperature, actually it’s also the second and third and last, but after an hour long tour, whose counting? It was cold, a bone-chilling teeth chattering 20 degrees farenheit cold. As my nose dripped, we learned about the Abbey’s artist, who took room and board in exchange, became a familiar of the Abbey (“like family”) to build exquisite sculptures – one of which took 30 years to complete. The church itself was built over centuries, and like many European churches erected throughout history, eras of style reflected in progressive completion – medieval, baroque, renaissance and even some 1960’s modern stained glass. I wonder, would anyone today even think about beginning a project that they knew wouldn’t be completed in their lifetime?
Viewed from 21st century eyes, life in the Abbey wasn’t easy, cozy or plush. The monks sang 7 times a day in an ice cooler of a church, from pre-dawn to dusk, changing for mass in the Sacristy, an exquisite locker room with little storage cubbies disguised as ornate artworks, or ornate artworks disguised as storage cubbies. The work room was a common dormitory hall, where one would make shoes or candles, then sell what wasn’t needed in nearby village markets. Everyone slept in a dormitory directly above the work room, on the stone floor. Oh, did I mention there was no heat source, in any room – minus the work room? Actually, there was one exclusive heated room, small enough for only one person to sit with candle and write religious texts – the Scriptorium. Hmmm, she thinks, hard to think or write when you’re cold . Life in the Cisternian order was lived by the credo: hard work and prayer, the latter, I figure, helped everyone stay warm and the former probably went something like, “please Lord, hasten the springtime…”
We who have heat, we who bathe in warm water, we who have artificial light are honoring the solstice season too, just like our ancestors. Yet whereas we can keep our daily life relatively consistent year round (especially in California) how dramatically the changing seasons must’ve affected daily life for our monks. Glorious, the springtime and the summer solstice! Come winter, plunged into darkness! As I found myself uncomfortable after my measly hour in the cold, I thought of the hardships endured in the Abbey. Taking warmth from spiritual and physical beauty as solid as the walls that captured years of chanting, prayer and song in stone, I realized this was as much a monument to devotion and strength of purpose as the value in community life over the life of the individual. One man can build a monument, but it takes a village to make it last forever – as far as forever goes on a human scale.
Now flying back to the U.S., I am closer to the Moon in Cancer than my ancestors were – her womb a delicate orbit for the Earth, a repository of history, memories, heart emotions and day to day preoccupations. And from the macro to the micro, so it is for us; another meal to fix, another discomfort, aching or pained heart to alleviate. As the Sun passes through Capricorn, we’re moved to consider where to devote our efforts and for what reason; to build a life that matters to the world. We’re motivated to build that church of meaning, something that endures after we’re gone and gives our lives purposeful direction in the meantime. Yet for Moon in Cancer, it’s the bonds of love we crave, and there are people nearby who need us because we know that love too survives centuries, it lights the windows of our home, and makes the building worthwhile.
The season brings the reason, and tradition, ritual, gratitude, all timeless offerings that bring us in from the cold no matter where we are in life. So today, flying high above the earth, I figure I’m closer in proximity than my ancestors were. Or am I?
Gratitude and Blessings, Dear Readers…