And then, before I knew it, carried by the words, I found myself with a group of people in the cold January desert night in southern Colorado, watching the moon.
The passage across time and space wasn’t immediate. It took more than a few paragraphs to get my head out of the papery clutter and psychic noise of my office. At the time I was immersed in the swirl of getting the autumn issue done, thinking about the portrayal of Jimmy Carter and the writer’s take on the thorny, hot-button Israeli-Palestinian affair. I had a couple of articles of my own to write (hadn’t started) and was thinking about that proposed piece on abortion and presidential politics. I faced a backlog of emails, a dispute needing finesse, a squabble needing a referee. I pondered what the magazine might do with Iraq, Iran, global warming. I could hear the echoes of barking readers, the wishes of family, the argument between my health and morning donut and, well, I was fretting over my lineup for the fantasy baseball finals.
I really didn’t have time to stop and read this manuscript that had just come in. I had deadlines to meet, priorities to tend. Still, I heated my coffee and sat to read. Maybe because I knew the author and liked her writing. Maybe because it was about the West, the sky, being out on the land.
I was a little impatient at first. Like any runner in our speeded-up world, I wanted the action to move along. Get to the point here. Yet before I knew it, I was taken away, absorbed into the narrative and the writer’s thoughts. It wasn’t till the reading was done that I realized how it had affected me. It wasn’t till I finished that I had a sense of coming to, and a sense of returning to my office, back into present time.
I also felt a little more peaceful, a little less harried, a little less walled-in by the busyness of my white-noise office. "Moonrise at Chimney Rock" by Elizabeth Dodd is about the moon and the landscape and the people who dwelled there centuries ago, the patterns in their lives, the subtle patterns in all our lives. It also offers a different way of looking at life—the long, deep view of human existence—and a different way of moving through the universe, deciphering its signs and meanings. It’s an interesting antidote to Andrew Santella’s "Feeling Anxious?" and even an apt companion to our cover story, John Nagy’s "The Once and Future Neighborhood."
One reason I’m drawing attention to this particular piece is that it reminded me of the power and pleasure of reading. Here at the magazine we’ve talked a lot about the latest trends in communication, the need to repackage information for today’s high-speed, pop-up world. We see what’s happening. But my taking a time-out—in the midst of my own rapid-fire existence—to read this essay about the moon showed me again the value of doing a magazine that people read.
You may not have the same reaction to the essay. We all have different tastes. But I hope this magazine consistently provides you good reading and a welcome respite from the dash of your days.
Kerry Temple is editor of Notre Dame Magazine.