The moon shone large and bright, high amid a clear, dark sky in the Gobi Desert. Near the horizon, a low bank of clouds was streaked with shadows and rays, all pointing toward the moon as if bowing in reverent worship.
It was one of the most physically and spiritually beautiful things I ever saw, and I stared awestruck for over an hour before I could reach for my notepad or camera. My sole desire was simply to utter the most peaceful, reverent, sincere prayers I ever offered to the Light of the World. It wasn’t a vision in the revelatory, loaded sense of that term, but it was an immensely inspiring spectacle. Of all my experiences from that month in Mongolia in 2005, this one still moves my soul the most.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” – Psalm 19:1 (New International Version)
I’ve never regretted not interrupting that sacred time to take a picture, but I’ve often wished I had the skill to paint my memory. I’ve often wished that I could show it to Tracy or others instead of just telling them about it. I believe in the power of words and their ability to conjure a thousand images, but there’s also undeniable value and power in the clarity of pictures.
Late yesterday afternoon, I was blessed with an imitation of that scene. It wasn’t the same, of course, and I only had my cell phone for a camera, but the thick clouds allowing just a peak at the sun, the high contrast between the dark sky and the blazing light within it, the streaks of shadows and highlights … it was enough to make me pull over, awestruck, and remember. It was enough for me to show Karen and Billy a hint of a symbol of what I described again for them. It was enough for them to experience some of that beautiful, reverent peace instead of just hear about it.
I can’t wait to show Tracy.
Three pictures from that night in June, 2005. These were all long exposures taken around 1 a.m., using a tripod but no additional lighting. Although the night did not literally look this bright (the middle picture is pretty close, though), the pictures are accurately expressive of how bright it was; I had no problem reading my journal without any extra light. The location was a campground near the city of Saynshand in southeast Mongolia, near the Chinese border.