Friday night I was planning on going to Shabbat services because of a special panel discussion they were planning for afterwards. Em was at a sleepover, Baroy uninterested. But N was dying to come with me, especially after hearing that his friend Zach would be there. This was a potential problem; I had planned some Chanukah and Christmas shopping, and didn't want to drag him along. So Zach's Mom (I'll call her ZM) told me I should drop him at her house--she lives right up the block from the synagogue--and she'd feed him dinner and bring him down to services when they came down.
We drove out there at around 5:30, and I parked the car by the temple and decided to walk up to ZM's house. It was while we were walking that I suddenly noticed something very...well, damn. I'm not sure how to describe it. It looked like an entire section of the ridgeline of the mountains north of us was being backlit. The mountains were outlined in the thinnest of lines of white, white, WHITE light. I would have assumed it actually WAS being backlit by a spotlight or something if I hadn't known that it was an uninhabited area...and if it wasn't such an obviously wide swath of ridgeland.
It was strange. Despite the whole Judaism thing--my increasing interest in theology and even to some degree in the concepts and practices of faith--I am still not very much of a touchy feely 'spiritual' person. (It's actually one of the things I always thought more or less precluded me from being involved in religion...a belief about which my rabbi and others have disabused me over the last few years.) And yet, here I was, walking past my synagogue and watching what I could only describe to myself as some sort of holy light emanating from the ridge. I actually shivered, and pointed it out to N, who was more or less unimpressed.
When we got to ZM's house, I asked her to come outside with me. I wanted her to see what I'd seen, to get her take on it. We had to walk a few houses south of hers to get a view of it, and what we saw alarmed her. What had previously been a thin line of light was now bluging right in the middle, flickering even, spreading as we watched. There were billowing white clouds of smoke above the flickering area, lit up and flickering a bit as well.
"I think that's a fire," ZM said. And while that's not what I'd seen at first, I saw it now. How could I have missed it? Flickering. Smoke. Growing in size.
We returned quickly to her house, wondering whether we should bother calling the fire department, assuming a fire that large would have already prompted many calls from panicked homeowners closer to the site. We decided ZM should call the local fire department--not 911, just the regular number--to see if it had already been reported.
The woman who answered said that no, nobody had called this in yet, and we were puzzled. Really? Could we possibly have been the first? We told her the firemen could come by ZM's house if they wanted on their way up the mountain, so we could show them the area where the fire was, but that it was pretty obvious; they really couldn't miss it. Then we bundled up N and Zach and went back outside to wait, walking down the few houses to where the ridge could be seen. "Funny how we're not smelling any smoke," ZM mused as we turned around, looking up at the rideline to find...
The MOON. Which had just risen. Against a white fluffly cloud of...well...cloud. Not smoke. CLOUD.
"Oooookay. I'll tell them not to come then," said the clearly unamused fire department operator, when ZM called back, somehow managing to choke out an apology around the laughter.
"Oy," I said, wiping the tears from my eyes when we finally stopped giggling.
"Oy indeed," ZM said, setting us both off again.
A few hours later, during the panel discussion...after a disastrous attempt on my part to trap a cricket that had somehow made it into the social hall and jumped onto our table, an attempt that resulted instead in the cricket hopping onto several other people, making each of them scream in turn and totally disrupting the entire proceedings...ZM leaned over to me and said, "Well, that was embarrassing."
"Please," I said. "We called the fire department tonight to report the MOON. Nothing else can touch that."
I do have to say, though, that ZM's helpless, doubled-over laugh-weeping--and the many, many heads it turned--as a result of that comment came pretty darned close.
[Amusing postscript: When I got home Friday night, I logged onto Twitter to find a tweet from one of the women I follow, who lives near me. The tweet said, "biggest full moon of the year. go out and enjoy."
I immediately emailed DZ. "So, see? It was unusually big! And probably extra HOT, too. THAT is why we had to call the fire department on it. I feel much better now."]