Encounter at Winter Moon by Michael Palisano









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



Encounter on Winter Moon

I found myself walking over the frozen ground, searching for an elusive shadow.

It was a familiar place for me, with its endless ice-covered paths and mountains. It was a place where the moonís presence was a constant, completely overwhelming the world. It lit the sky and took control of all the ground underneath. Now, it felt colder than ever, its weight lengthened the nights which seemed to stretch on forever. Covered by snow, the ground was heavier under its weight. Each step felt dangerous, one wrong step leaving me vulnerable. My exploration seemed to have dragged on forever, becoming a puzzle without a solution. I walked through endless waves of frozen lands, cold and desolate. The shadows lurked under the moon, systematically mocking and mimicking my every step. I frequently wondered if I would ever find her again. She seemed to have faded away becoming a casualty of sadness, a dream lost to eternity. I could see her face, hear her voice, and sense her presence from time to time, but this would fade in time, leaving only a cold memory behind. Under the moon, Iíd find myself coming back to them in vivid fashion, wondering if they would ever return. As I walked under the moon, I felt trapped inside a permanent mirror with no reflection, dreaming of an unattainable past. Everything I was trying to forget about her began to permeate then dominate my thoughts again. The vivid reality I had tried to escape gradually seeped inside. I saw the storm arriving from a distance and before I realized what was happening, it had reached my position. The snow came down on me, slowing my progress, then suddenly collapsing and dissolving into retreat as soon as it came.

The squall left me covered and freezing once again, and I was overcome with her memory. It didnít matter how fast I ran, I couldnít escape, The loneliness played its old trick on me once again. Things I had forgotten became real once again.  Despite the cold wind blowing through my clothes, the cutting darkness that hastened my steps and its lack of direction, I decided to keep going onward, to give in to defeat would have been an unacceptable act. I wandered around under the moonís glow aimlessly for what seemed like years. Things seemed disorienting until I accidentally found the nearly invisible, almost completely hidden door and entered the warm, glowing greenhouse. It was full of life inside there and I found a lost friendship instantly reborn, it brought a new motivation to continue my search. We had connected briefly in the mirror inside the greenhouse, and as diffuse as our reunion had seemed, the brief release from the shadows helped to neutralize the demons. This short respite motivated me to keep exploring the moon. As I reluctantly left the greenhouse, my old friend smiled at me and told me that what I really needed to do was to keep looking and have faith that the path would eventually lead me to my destination.

Back outside, an endless moonlit night stretched out before me. The desolate hills and forgotten paths seemed intimidating. There was no one around to help me, I had to rely on my instincts and memories to navigate into the right direction.  It didnít feel quite as lonely as it had before. Now, I felt there were allies on my journey, fellow soldiers in the fight, As this realization came to me, I felt stronger. The territory felt more familiar to me, there were things I knew how to unlock. Still, unexpected obstacles presented different challenges. When I found my two companions released from their ethereal state of memory, brought back to existence in a flash of inspiration, it was as if time had dissolved, and things finally felt right once again when we found ourselves together unexpectedly. This moment, what it was to be meant things were changing. The path I had been on had felt so lonely for so long, but the endless night began to loosen its icy, desolate grip. As the ice surrounding me began to melt, it seemed to have released something inside me that I had forgotten. I remembered how it felt to walk alone, exploring different paths and discovering things that didnít make sense at the time, but became seminal moments later on as I unraveled their meaning. I waited for a long time and started to remember things I had forgotten. Our encounters in the past had always seemed desolate and cold, two distant figures passing in the darkness, but there was always an unexplainable connection between us. Perhaps, we had known each other in the past, or there was something we shared as our parallel journeys under the moonlight unfolded. She would remain in my mind for a very long time, but always a distant mysterious figure. It was something I couldnít explain, but the journey continued. I walked and explored, looking for her around almost every bend in the path, but she would appear only fleetingly.

After a period of many years, her presence began to dissolve slowly, until she became little more than a memory. Then suddenly, she re-emerged and in a way, I think she helped me find my friend once again. The night we shared was loud and full of life, creativity and, friendship. One of the strangest things that I remembered about that night was how little it seemed to take to ignite that light inside of me once again. After feeling lost and alone for so long, it made the night feel less burdensome. Once I had exhausted myself and the excitement began to fade. I knew I would have to resume my journey. I spent so much time wondering what it would be like but it was quite different than I imagined. The world began to freeze up again, and I embraced its frigid, brittle peace as I walked out into the darkness once again. Leaving wasnít nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. I had the confidence that I would return, and the lack of permanence to our parting this time made it feel less hurtful. I walked through the door and closed it firmly behind me, standing once again on the edge of the ice-covered bridge. I had a sense of direction this time and while the exact path I would take remained uncertain, I figured that I would find a way. With renewed confidence, I carefully walked over the bridge and returned to the other side of the valley. I looked back and I could see the outlines of the door slowly vanishing under the snow and wind, coldly disappearing back into its hidden state.

Slowly, I turned away and looked ahead to see the world lurking ahead. The moonlit world was cold, desolate, saturated with a dim blue light. It looked unchanged; as it had for the many years I had visited. I walked up the path on the side of the mountain and climbed up the stairs to reach a patch of flat land, illuminated perfectly under the moon. I could see into the distance, but there wasnít much to relate. A cold expanse, frozen under an endless night, ice covered masses jutted up in between lakes and rivers of ice. I walked through to the other side of the expanse and found a small window encased under a rock formation.  Determined not to let any small detail escape me, I looked closer and saw my face in the reflection. In a moment, I realized what had happened. It was a shocking moment, something I never expected. It took me by complete surprise, but it shouldnít have. I always knew this was a possibility. I knew there would be no turning back now. I knelt to the ground and my head began to swirl and churn, it was a dizzying emotion. Everything I had lost came back to me, all the years we had missed. In that moment, I realized that while time had stood still for me, it hadnít for others. I was trapped here without understanding how much had elapsed in the interim.

Just as quickly, I regained some composure and began to walk around it to examine it closer. I tripped over it and found myself on my back, staring at the distant stars and the cold moon. It looked strange from my perspective; it seemed powerful, drawn into itself, created by its own force. I watched it and admired its stillness, its unchanging glow permanently washing over its cold, beautiful charge. I couldnít bring myself to look away from its majestic face. The hold it created was hypnotic and uncharacteristically strong. It was as if the moon itself was guarding me, holding onto my hand while I walked alone. I felt its pull as it pierced through the darkness, permeating through the cold to compensate for the darkness. I caught this moment purely be accident but allowed myself to surrender to its beauty for a few moments. For a moment, I forgot about my journey, the time it had taken and all that I lost in its pursuit. I didnít see her, or hear her voice. I was alone, in a silent, brittle peace under its frigid light. After so many years running and not paying attention, I finally allowed myself to feel at home in this place. I stopped fighting, and was giving-in to it just enough to allow its stoic atmosphere to take hold inside me. I was so fixated on the moon that it overwhelmed my senses and I lost track of time. I think I might have fallen asleep but I watched the moon and it seemed to be watching over me. I had given in to its power and in this moment it reciprocated with blissful silence.

Unable to move, not wanting to let the moment go carelessly, I let it breathe, exhaling a cold embrace daring me to deny its power. There were streaks implanted on its surface but it was otherwise devoid of marks or craters, in this it looked almost flawless, a formed circle glowing above me. As the wind picked up, I felt a few small flakes of snow and before I realized it, there was a storm brewing in the distance. I once again felt vulnerable and the oncoming snow became more aggressive, cutting away the air in bursts of velocity, pausing only momentarily to hold its breath. I walked to the side of the area and tried to navigate down the ladder, but it felt too risky. I decided the best approach would be to hold myself low to the ground and hope for the best. After about an hour, I began to feel the cold come even closer to my body. I felt that I could withstand it, but there was a sense that it would be far from easy, requiring plenty of persistence and strength. I crouched down and waited for the storm to come to an end. It was a long wait, I felt myself trapped, with little in the way of protection. I felt my body grow very cold and I lost consciousness. When I awoke, I felt very strange, like an eternity had passed. I didnít notice anything different about the world, but it seemed different, things had subtly changed position.

I felt something touch the end of my foot, trying to awaken me. Through the wind, I knew whot it was. Through all of the wind and snow, the darkness and cold, she had managed to locate me. There wasnít much doubt in my mind, there was a distinct energy that she possessed, and it communicated instantly. In a moment, all those years of running and exploring had come to an end. I was finally with her again. She stood over me, blocking the wind from me and she looked stronger and taller than I remembered. It was a radiance I remembered instinctively, as though no time had passed in the intervening years. She knelt down and held my hand. We waited together for the strongest winds and snow to pass. Eventually, the storm began to recede and we stood up together slowly. We stared and watched the storm quickly dissipate. The dormant moon began to reclaim its preeminence above us, withering the remaining clouds below. We faced each other and looked into each otherís eyes. I knew instantly what had happened. At long last, she was there under the moon. In an instant, distance dissolved. I looked around at the newly covered ground; its freshly covered landscape suddenly emanated a different energy, as if it had been reborn under its frozen blanket. I looked at her and began to realize what had happened and knew I wasnít leaving this time.

I knew that I had made a mistake running away from this place, and the loss of direction undermined me at every turn. I looked at her and finally understood what she meant to me. I hadnít been paying enough attention and felt I couldnít go on. In a moment, things had changed. The loneliness that permeated the world began to fade, and I finally felt that I wasnít alone. After all the years of searching for her, it was strange that she had been the one to find me. We stood there together under the moon for quite some time. We didnít need to say anything. The moon quietly sat overhead, feeling more like an old friend than an enemy. In some way, I think it had been trying guide us towards each other. Now that we were together, it seemed to share the moment with us, something we didnít mind. I knew that we were meant to be companions and we would now be able share this place with each other. It was an odd feeling, but one that made sense. We sat for a long time, and I didnít know how much time weíd have, but I decided to soak in every moment. I didnít feel the cold, just quiet and calm for a change. Eventually, the moon began to fade, slowly falling to the horizon. This was a signal for us to move onwards in our travels. She got up and began to assemble her things, walking around, waiting for the right moment to leave. I walked behind her and we began the slow descent, As we walked down the path, I looked up to see the moon falling towards the horizon. We slowly climbed down the ladder, and walked towards the icy path. Even though the divergent icy paths standing before us offered many uncertainties, we wouldnít have to face them alone. We had finally found each other and could explore this frozen landscape for eternity. 

- Michael Palisano