I have often thought of this passage in the many years since I first read about Su Tungpo. It is true that we can see the moon most nights, that we can follow its monthly circuit around our earth. Its beauty is dependable, as are the trees and luminous clouds which set it off against the night sky. We have only to lift our eyes.
The decade which A Moon Every Night chronicles is one of increasing global ties between nations. The Cold War is declared over, though ethnic conflicts continue. Communications technology grows exponentially, with satellites, the Internet and cell phones. Container ships continue to reshape global trade and passenger travel between countries reaches new highs. All of these things lead to increased cultural exchange, of which our characters, the Mikkelsons, take full advantage.
Line’s kids are now young adults. Christopher spends a couple of years in the Peace Corps and Heather takes a winemaking internship in Chile. Fern and Ivy go with their parents to Edinburgh, where Stephen has taken a lectureship. Fern becomes captivated by archaeology. We cannot follow all of this activity, but it echoes throughout Line’s world. Though she faces very physical manifestations of homesickness, Line studies the gardens, herbal healing and Celtic history available to her in Scotland. When at home in Santa Cruz, she becomes involved in the growing hospice movement.
Marty’s interests have turned toward the countries on the Pacific Rim. She travels to China and returns home to study tai chi, calligraphy and tea ceremony. These interests help, but do not assuage the pain of a bittersweet love affair with someone who is married. Paul goes back to teaching when he realizes that Mother finds it hard to live at the lake by herself in the summers. Thus he spends more time with her on the Minnesota lake that is the Mikkelsons’ heritage. Paul and Marie perform as a musical duo throughout the state, but Marie’s light is flickering and Mother’s goes out during this decade.
Line, Marty and Paul Mikkelson are well aware of the moon’s path across the sky at night. Endowed by their parents and Scandinavian ancestors with a strong sense of connection to the natural world, they are sometimes more carefree, sometimes less. As they grow older and their children grow up, they confront themselves and the lives they have made for themselves, mindful of place, of the world evolving around them. Hearts and minds united, they are each in their different ways open to the “thin places” where the core of reality shines through.