Archive for the 'Inspirations' Category

Crisp And Clean Confirms Our Deen

Yesterday, May 15th 2018, was the 29th day of the Islamic month of Sha’baan.  It was the critical day to go out and site the new moon for the month of Ramadan.  Unfortunately, no one saw the crescent moon last evening.  Even more disappointing, was that there was a claim that the moon was seen through a telescope down in Southern California.  The claim was incredulous and by 9 pm last night many organizations had announced that based on no valid sighting reports that Ramadan would start on Thursday May 17th.

Then this evening, after sunset this was the view in the western sky.

New Crescent of Ramadan 1, 1439

Without a doubt what you are seeing in this photo is the first day moon of Ramadan.  And without any doubt I know there will be people who will make the assertion that this is a second day moon.  One only needs to compare this moon too any of the other first day crescent moons on this site like the moon from earlier this year in the article titled Blue Is Peace.  You can compare for yourself and tell me if this evening’s moon is not a first day moon.

New Crescent of Rabi’ Al-Awwal 1, 1439

What is more phenomenal, is that those who claim it to be a second day moon, probably have never gone out to see a new moon in the first place!  The audacity!

Ramadan has finally started.  We begin fasting tomorrow.  Ramadan Mubarak to all my Muslim readers, and Peace to all.

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In The Nick Of Time

Today was the 29th day of the Sacred month of Rajab in the Islamic Calendar. It is the the 7th month in the Islamic year and proceeds the Holy month of Ramadan by two months.  Sighting its new crescent is first in line to accurately determining the start of Ramadan as it sets up the correct sighting day for the 8th month known as Shabaan.  Today was that crucial day for sighting Shabaan.

It was a touch and go day if the new moon of Shabaan would be seen at all.  As the afternoon unfolded for us here on the West Coast, I received reports from further east that the sky was clouded over by other moon sighters.  It was looking grim for us as well.  We had on and off rain all day and as I pulled up to our new sighting location in the Santa Cruz mountains, it was not looking good.

First Sight – Not Looking Good!

My close friend and fellow moonsighter was about 50 or so miles north standing on Mount Tamalpais had much better conditions and I was hoping that at least he would see it.  Here is the sky he had.

Looking Good!

My assistants  standing with me on that wind blown ridge started to lose hope as it started to rain on us.  I took off my jacket and covered the camera on the tripod and said, “we wait it out”.  There is always hope.  The rain slowly subsided.  The clouds started to break and I became even more hopeful, while the others not so much.  Slowly the breaks in the clouds became bigger and then smaller.  Gaps would open and our eyes played tricks on us as we thought we saw it and then not.

The all of a sudden at 8:02 pm PDT my phone rang, it was a text from my friend up north.  He saw the moon with 2 other adult males and one adult female for a total of 4 witnesses.  I was both elated and saddened at the same time as it was starting to look grim for us again.  But we pushed on.  The moon was still in the sky and if we needed to we would stay there until moon set.  We kept searching, the clouds kept passing in and out leaving gaps where we needed to look.  Then my oldest assistant cried out, “I think I see it Allahu Akbar,…No…maybe…I don’t know”.  Then one of my other assistants said the same.  I was still “in the clouds”.

Then both of those assistants cry out “There it is, Allahu Akbar! I see it”.  The other two “Where, where?”  There is confusion as I and the other two tried to find it.  Descriptions were not clear as to where to look.  Then all of a sudden, right in a gap between the clouds, I see it. “Allahu Akbar!!!!”.  I quickly point the camera at it, and I snap off one exposure.  Then I try to point it out to my other two assistants.  While I try to get some more exposures.  The moon sank quickly behind the clouds below it, allowing only one good exposure of the new moon of Shabaan.  We sighted it at 8:07 pm PDT with about an azimuth of 280 degrees and an altitude of just 3 fingers above the horizon.  

Shabaan 1, 1439

Not as artistically placed as usually try to do, but this time I caught that moon just in the nick of time.  In the end we were elated.  We went out and fulfilled our Sunnah of seeing the new crescent moon.  We are taking back this sunnah.  We will not let it be lost.  One month from now, that is in 29 days, count them and go out and look for the the moon of Ramadan and take back the sunnah for yourself.  You will not be disappointed.

Until next time, Shabaan Mubarak and Peace to all!

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The Eye Of Night

Eons ago, light appeared.  It gives us the ability to see.  The light alternates with darkness giving us day and night.  During the day the source of light, a star that is 93 million miles from the Earth, is so strong that we cannot look into it without harming our eyes.  The sun that illuminates our world is not considered a very bright star among the myriad of stars that exist in the universe and yet it is the brightest entity in our sky.

However, as the sun drops below the western horizon at the end of each day the sky that was illumined blue turns dark and then a dazzling display of stars fills the night sky.  For millennia the night sky has piqued the curiosity of humanity as we gazed out into the universe, and it still does the same today.

At any given moment, when looking at the night sky we only see that myriad of stars as points of light.  What we cannot see is that the stars do move across the sky.  Yes, we can tell they move as we see them rise in the east and set in the west hours later.  However, at any given moment they are just fixed points of light, each slightly different from the other in either color, brightness, or twinkle.

We experience light with our eyes. However, as remarkable as our eyes are, they do not have the ability of persistence of vision. Our eyes function more like sieves than buckets. Photons, the tiny particles of light, that enter our eyes will either instantly be absorbed passing the information they hold to our brain if they happen to be photons in the visible range or they are just ignored. In either case the photons do not persist in our eyes as if they were captured in a bucket.

This lack of persistence limits us in seeing the history of motion that objects undergo. While at the same time it is fortunate that our eyes do not have persistence as our vision would be quite cluttered and possibly very confusing.

Yet with the proper tools we can experience the night sky in ways that elucidate it’s phenomenal nature. With technology at hand, we can augment our vision and see things very differently. The camera is that said tool. One might think that the latest and greatest camera would produce the best photos. While that may be true for most types of photos, modern cameras are starting to behave to much like our own eyes in that they start to fail in capturing light that shows persistence. If the camera keeps “looking” too long, then the physical limitations of the light sensor become apparent and the resulting image will be of very poor quality. The solution to the problem lies in older technology: film.

Film has the uncanny ability to work like a light bucket. Exposing film to light for a brief time causes a photo-chemical reaction to take place in the emulsion that is spread on the surface of the film itself. If exposure is continued for longer periods of time more reactions take place until all of the emulsion has reacted and the film goes clear; producing what is called an over-exposure. However, if the source of light used to expose the film is moving during exposure, especially in the dark of night, the film will not become overexposed even with very long exposures. The film will record where the light source is and through persistence, since once a chemical reaction takes place on the film it cannot be undone, we can see the history of the light source as well.

The Eye Of Night

It’s the perfect tool if one wishes to see how the night sky moves. As the stars move across the night sky, the film’s persistence of vision allows one to see the trails the stars took as they spanned our night sky. The great astronomers of past millennia had great imaginations that allowed them to see such trails in their mind’s eye. We however, due in part to the prevalence of technology, have lost that skill. Our mind’s eye has become dull and untrained. And while we rely on modern technology to see what our ancestors imagined, we still have the blessing of actually seeing the fantastic phenomena the moving stars are.

With the use of a camera and film, the trails taken by the stars as they move across the night sky become readily apparent. The trails themselves will appear different in a geometric sense depending on where the camera is pointed. Point the camera at the pole star Polaris and something amazing appears. Polaris does not move very much at all yet the stars near it seem to sweep out perfect circular arcs. Expose long enough to build the persistence and we start to see a structure that appears to be an eye itself.

I never reflected before on this apparent eye structure that appears in this photo even though I have taught astronomy for years and have watched the sky for many, many more and have imagined how the stars move. Now as I look up at the pole star and the stars that circumnavigate the sky near it, I can’t help but think that I am staring into the eye of night itself.

I further wonder, that as we have been looking up into the night sky for millennia marveling at the stars and the universe, that the universe has been looking back at us as well with one big eye. And if not the universe itself, maybe it’s Creator.

Until next time keep looking and pondering.

Peace.

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Is That All?

The year of 2018 started off with the rising of the year’s first full moon.  It was also the rising of the first of two full moons in the same month giving the first month of the year a Blue Moon, or so its called now when a given month has two full moons in it.  Not only that, but given that the moon was close to its perigee, the closest point in its orbit around the Earth, this full moon was also called a Super Moon.  The full moon on January 1st of 2018 appeared 14.1% larger than average.  So of course, it was a unique moon and what better way to bring in the new year than to go out and photograph it.

As I stood on a ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains not far from where I now live, I looked to the east in great anticipation waiting for the moon to appear above one ridge line east of my location.

Anticipation Rising

As the sky dimmed I could see clouds building to the east and hope of seeing the first full super moon of year started to wane.  Then suddenly a dim glow started to appear behind the trees.  It was coming!  My shutter started to fly.  Exposures changing.  Compositions changed as well.  It was clear though, the moon was rising behind clouds.  I nearly gave up.  But then, a definite arch suddenly appeared between the trees.  The brightness of the moon penetrated the thin veil of clouds and made itself apparent in the sky.  There is a reason it was called a super moon!

Super Moon Rising

That moon was phenomenal!  As large as I think I have ever seen it, and so bright and full of contrast, just hovering there in the sky with the swirls of clouds surrounding it in a magical mist.  I continued photographing it rise varying my exposures to hopefully develop a composite image the would faithfully convey to my readers what I was seeing.  Expose for the moon, and the subtle clouds lit by the moon vanish in darkness.  Expose for the clouds themselves, and the moon becomes nothing more than a pure white orb in the resulting capture.  The dynamic range was so wide that I did not think a realistic image could even be developed.  Nonetheless, I continued.

Later that evening, as I sat in my studio struggling with the exposure I had to make a composite, it became evidently clear to me that I just might not be able to convey what I saw.  Not happy with my results, I shut down my workstation and retired.  I turned my attention towards the end of the month when not only would I get a chance again to capture another Super Moon, although only 12.9% larger than normal, it would also be a Blue Moon, and furthermore, it was to coincide with a total lunar eclipse – A Blood Moon!

Fast forward three weeks.  The moon slowly wanes to full.  One week until January 31st and I arrive home not feeling well.  I wake in the morning feeling the full brunt of influenza, I have contracted the virus and its wracking my body to shreds.  I start fearing that I just might miss the Super Blue Blood Moon as it is now called.  The moon on the evening of January 30 would be rising only 12 hours from being at 100% full.  It will pass through midnight here in the Pacific timezone and then start its descent to the western horizon.  Then approximately 4 hours before setting it would enter into Earth’s outer shadow, known as the Penumbra, and then approximately an hour later, into the inner shadow known as the Umbra and into totality.  The peak of totality would occur at 5:31 am PST.  I slept most of the day on January 30th, exhausted by the flu.  That night sleep was light yet fearful of daring to trek out in the middle of the night as ill as I was to try to see the eclipse let alone try to capture it with the camera.

My oldest assistant, the one who accompanied me last August to see the total solar eclipse, was as eager as I to come along, but of course not at all afraid, and I was very happy to have someone of able body to accompany me.  Normally, I would have witnessed and photographed the entirety of the event, however, given my condition, I was satisfied to see and capture just totality.  We set our alarms for 4:30 am, giving us 1 hour to position ourselves along the same ridge I used earlier in the month to capture the New Year’s moon.  It was a ridge that had good visibility to both the east and west.

We arrived with plenty of time.  There was a slight breeze blowing at our arrival.  It was not very cold at all, and bundled up as I was in my winter clothing I fared well out in the night air.  We saw the moon enter into totality and carefully exposed the moon and then quickly exposing for the night sky as well to capture the stars that appeared in its vicinity.  It was an event, a Super Moon, A Blue Moon, and A Blood Moon all occurring on the same night.  It was an event that had not been seen in 150 years, and would not be seen again until January 31st of 2037!  As 5:31 am approached I asked my assistant to keep me apprised of the time.  I wanted to make sure I captured the moon at the peak of totality.  As it occurred, I called out to my assistant and said “there it is, peak totality!”.

“Is That All!?”, asked my assistant, in a very disappointed tone.

“What Do You Mean, Is That All?, were you expecting a Corona or something?” 

“It’s not a solar event, its much more subtle and quiet and most people would not even make the effort to go out in the dead of the night to see it. You should consider yourself fortunate to have seen it.”

And although it was a much photographed event due to the hype mustered about the rarity of this moon, most images I have seen left me flat.  There is one special thing about a moon in the totality of the Earth’s shadow, and that is that it is dim and allows us to see the stars that are near the moon.  Stars that we normally cannot see on a full moon evening because the moon is so bright that it extinguishes out such nearby stars much like the sun does in the day.  Therefore, when I photograph the moon in a total lunar eclipse, I am as interested in the surrounding stars as I am in the moon itself.  So without anymore delay, The Super Blue Blood Moon along with it’s accompaniment of stars in the constellation Cancer.

Super Blue Blood Moon and Stars of Cancer

Each star in the field was verified as an actual star and not a digital artifact using the Stellarium Ephemeris.  I’ll just mention a few of them.  The closest star to the moon at approximately 10 o’clock is HIP 43613 and is 673.88 light years (ly) away.  The bright star in the upper left corner, HIP 43742 and is 514.44 ly away.  The bright star to the lower left is 54 Cnc and is 124.96 ly away.  The oldest star is HIP 43206 and is 856.05 ly away and is near the lower right but second from the edge.  Several of the stars are unnamed so if anyone wants a star, contact the star registry!

Upon completing this image, I thought about the first New Year moon that I photographed and mentioned above.  I yearned to actually develop a composite that would convey what I saw.  So I opened those exposures and got to work once again.  This time, I found the necessary ingredients needed to combine both the exposures of the moon with that of the clouds and came away with what I remember.  There is a reason it is called a Super Moon.  Heck, even if it is not “super” it is still a stupendous entity in our night sky.  No wonder so much in the way of poetry is written about it, no wonder that it is used as an adjective to describe the radiance of the face of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, it is truly a wonder to behold.

Truly, A Super Moon!

We started this year with Light.  That is a good way to start! 

Until next time, Peace to you All!

 

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Sparks Of Light – 11/22/17

 

Look up

Look down

Look all around

And miracles can be found.

Even in a leaf

No longer in the Crown

Now adorns the lowly ground.

 

Look Down

 

Layers

 

Miracle

 

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Blue Is Peace

New Crescent of Rabi Al-Awwal

Blue Is Peace

Color is a fascinating subject to study.  Apart from the physics of light itself and the wave lengths of the various colors that we can see, colors have a profound psychological effect on us.  Blue is an interesting color in that it can effect us in many positive ways.  Blue is a color that suggests peace. It’s the color of the calm sea and the clear sky, both of which are linked to inner serenity, calm and clarity. Blue was also shown to slow heart rate and breathing, so it can be a good color to aid in meditation or relaxation. Blue is associated with intelligence. It has been proven that different shades of blue can improve concentration, stimulate thinking and provide mental clarity. It also improves productivity. This is a good color for study and work, as it offers relaxation and stimulation at the same time.  Blue is a color that is linked with confidence. Unlike red, which shows aggressive dominance, blue is related to a calm authority. Blue inspires trust, it is non-threatening and shows persistence.

Blue inspires many of the characteristic qualities of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.  I found it interesting that this month the moon came in with the color of blue, in the Month of the birth of the Prophet.  If there was one thing the Prophet came to spread in this world it was Peace.  If there is one thing that we need more than anything else in our modern world it is peace.  From mass shootings perpetrated by those who have become totally unhinged from reality to sexual assaults on our youth by depraved and debauched individuals to attacks on our security both physically and identity, our world is in chaos and turmoil.  

So in this month of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, Rabi Al-Awwal, let’s honor him by carrying the torch of his mission of spreading peace, by doing the same.  For he, peace be upon him, said, “Spread Peace, Feed people food, and pray in the night while others are sleeping and you will enter into paradise”.  In this next month, Go around and just say “Peace To You” to those you meet and let them know that as a Muslim, you are committed to spreading peace in the world.  Maybe, just maybe, we can succeed in bringing peace to a troubled world.

Til next time, Peace to you all!

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The Secret Life of The Moon

Did you see this last evening after sunset?  If I was a betting man, I would bet that most people on this planet did not see it, in fact I would be willing to bet most did not even know that this fine crescent was something that was even visible, or that it cycles.  This is not an uncommon occurrence, it happens every month and has been doing so probably longer than humans have been around, and will continue to do so far after we cease to exist.

Unseen Beauty

The moon goes through its monthly journey around the Earth, for the most part, completely unnoticed.  It does not appear with great fanfare or make some big announcement that it is about to appear.  It is one of the most beautiful objects in our sky.  It’s subtle.  It illuminates our nights with its moonshine.  It is our celestial clock, and knowing its phase as well as knowing where it is among the zodiac will tell us the time of the year.  When I look at the moon I only see beauty.  And even though it is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is also understood that beauty is universally recognized.  One hallmark of beauty, according to James Thurber, is that “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention”.  If you ponder upon this statement for a while I think you will come to the conclusion that the moon is certainly one of those things, and as it runs through it’s secret life, it does allow us to see it’s beauty, if we are willing to look.

Until next time, 

Peace!

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Freedom From Fire

Ramadan is quickly coming to a close.  As I write, the 28th day is starting to wane.  I always feel melancholy as Ramadan prepares to leave us.  The abstaining from food and drink is not always so pleasant, but we learn to patiently deal with it as we move through the month.  The pangs of hunger, continuously reminding us of the state we are in, become dull and we don’t notice them so much by month’s end.  We start to turn inward and work on our spiritual-selves.  We pray more.  We read the Qur’an more.  We reflect on our shortcomings and work on becoming better humans.  We seek forgiveness from our Lord.  We give charity to those who are less fortunate.  We feed people.  The community comes together each night.  Camaraderie builds.  Old friends become new again.   The relationship with our Creator becomes stronger.  We become more grateful for what we have.  By month’s end, the heart is overflowing with love, compassion, gratitude and hope.

So, it is only natural that one would feel sad to see all of this vanish with the close of the month.

The month of Ramadan also brings with it some amazing opportunities for what is to come once we leave this world.  The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him) stated that the beginning of Ramadan is Mercy, the middle of Ramadan is Forgiveness and the end of Ramadan is Freedom from the Hell-Fire.  Likewise He (peace be upon him) stated Woe to those who fast Ramadan and are not emancipated from the Fire.  This brings on a great urgency as Ramadan closes  with increased worship in the hopes of finding that freedom.

This year, 2016, we find ourselves planning to search for the new moon of the month of Shawwal, marking the end of Ramadan, on July 4th!  Here in the United States of America, of course July 4th is Independence Day, the day the founders of this great country liberated themselves from the tyranny of King George III of England in 1776.  From the location where I normally sight the new crescent moons, I can see nearly the entire San Francisco Bay Area.  It will be interesting to see all the firework displays from there all happening at the same time, at a great distance however, but nonetheless that will be a lot of fireworks!

It struck me odd this year that we are ending the month of Ramadan with increased effort to find freedom from the Fire, and we will be closing out the month celebrating freedom with fire. I’m sure there is something deep to think about there but I have some more spiritual work to tend to.

So to all my readers, a pre-Eid Mubarak and have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Freedom?

Until next time, Peace.

P.S.  Please remember to go out and search for the new crescent on July 4th.  I’ll be at Russian Ridge, my usual place, if anyone is interested in joining me.

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Here We Go Again

It has been too long since my last post.  Much has transpired since then, but more on that later.  For now, the moon sighting for Ramadan is again quickly approaching.  To prepare for what is coming and to ensure, or try to circumvent any confusion for Ramadan, sighting the moon of the preceding month, the month of Sha’baan, becomes necessary.

Astronomically, the probability of seeing the new crescent was very good.  All the parameters needed to easily see the new moon were to be met.  I had put a plan in place to take my astronomy class on its last field trip to the James Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton just south east of San Jose.  The weather outlook was good for most of the preceding week and early in the week of the planned trip.  However as we approached our sighting day, May 7th, the weather took a turn for the worse.  The skies clouded over and rain was forecast.  In fact on the morning of the trip it was raining throughout the S.F. Bay Area!  The hopes of all the students, and mine as well, were washing away with every rain drop that fell from the sky.

In spite of the weather, we continued on with our planned trip.  In addition to being at roughly 4200 feet in elevation atop Mount Hamilton for the sighting, I had also arranged for a tour of the observatory.  So even if we did not see the moon, we were in store for a great tour of many of the telescopes used up there.  When we arrived at the observatory we were actually in the clouds!  We could not see the sky, the mountains, or the valleys below, a near total whiteout condition, and it was cold, very cold.

Our tour guides met us with over-flowing enthusiasm.  It was infectious and soon we were all excited about seeing the various telescopes.  The one disappointment was that due to the high humidity the observatory was most likely not going to allow us to view anything through the telescopes.  I learned, even though I kind of already knew, that with a humidity above 91% the telescope lenses would fog over with condensation and then later require a costly and laborious cleaning.  I’ve been in conditions where the humidity was very high at night and seen what it does to my camera lenses.  But I was still surprised and saddened that viewing something like Jupiter or Saturn that night was not going to happen.

As we finished the day time portion of the tour we were headed back to the original observatory building when suddenly the cloud we were in started to break and blue sky was seen for the first time that day!  Everyone on the trip turned to me and asked if I thought seeing the moon at least would be possible.  I was hopeful.  By the time we arrived back to the main building, the cloud we were in had completely dissipated and we could see the fog that had settled in the valleys below.  However the sky was still covered with patchy high clouds, and the portion of the sky where I had expected the moon to be was covered as well.

I told everyone to just be patient.  We wait until we are sure the moon has set before we give up.  Sunset occurred around 8 pm that night.  We prayed our sunset prayer as a group and then we ate our evening meal that we had brought with us.  The clouds kept playing with us as they moved across the sky allowing for openings where we would search intently and then to just have that portion of the sky close up once more.  Then it happened!

Just a few minutes pat 8:30 pm the moon suddenly broke out of the clouds and the gasps of excitement rang out!

Peek-a-Boo

It was very refreshing to finally see the new moon after months of failed attempts this spring.  The weather was a hindrance each time I had gone out his spring.  The rain was very important this year here in California and while I am grateful for it, it was starting to weigh on my patience.  But finally we saw the moon!  It was a nice capstone to the end of the astronomy class that I was teaching.

The following day I sat down to edit the photos I had made of the Sha’baan moon.  While I was working on the image made with my 400mm lens, I noticed a small white spot very close to the crescent itself.  Intrigued, I opened my star charting software and set up the location and time when the photo was made to determine what star it might be or if it was just an artifact.  To my surprise it was actually a star!  It was Hyadum I, or otherwise known as Gamma Tauri, a star in the constellation of Taurus the Bull and it is only 158 light-years away from Earth!

Shabaan and Hyadum I

It was a fabulous evening that resulted in a great capture of the moon and this time with a star!  I think this is the first time that I have captured the crescent moon with a star in the same image.  Seeing stars on the western horizon at the time when the crescent becomes visible is very rare.  Venus, yes. Mars, yes and maybe even Mercury or any of the other five naked-eye planets but stars not so much.  The coolest part is that I did not see Hyadum I when we were out there, but the camera did.  I am still to this day, more than 20 years after picking up a camera to ‘see’ the world, still get floored at its ability to capture things that slip by our own eyes! It is quite humbling.  I think it is imperative that we reflect on that.  What we see with our eyes is not all that is there.

Until next time, Peace.

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Never Give Up!

Today was very uncertain with regards to the weather.  Mostly cloudy all day long with small pockets of rain all over the Bay Area.  Given that today was a moon sighting evening the weather made for some tense moments leading up to sunset.  As the day came to a close, I rushed to one of my back up locations to search for the moon, however I had little hope.  The sky was quite thick with clouds but as the sky grew darker the clouds started to break up.  I searched intently all alone.  Suddenly my phone beeped.  It was a friend about 40 miles to my north east, also searching.  He sent a photo of the sky from his location in the Bay Area.  His photo showed some dense cloud cover, similar to what I was seeing. I reply with a photo of the sky I was seeing and a message that I could not see the moon.

Not more than a few minutes had passed when he sends another message containing just two words; Got It.

I ask, “you see it!” but before I could hit send, I glance up and from behind a dark cloud bank I see that fine sliver of light emerge from behind the clouds!  And to think I almost threw in the towel and called it a night.  Then appended to the above, I write “I see it too!” and send the message.

Never Give Up!

Obscured by the clouds, the moon played hide and seek with me for about 5 minutes before it dropped down below that lower cloud deck hugging the mountains.  It moved so fast.

And so that moon marked the beginning of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.  An endeavor that challenges men and women of all ages, cultures, languages, financial status, and backgrounds to ten days of rigor in the Arabian Desert, all for one reason; answering the call of God to come and visit the Ancient House, to stand there on a desert plain and seek Divine forgiveness and mercy.  Not everyone can go at the same time.  Physically Mecca could not hold the entire Muslim population on the planet.  It reaches its bursting point at just about 2 million people!  And yet, Muslims will intend to go all their lives until they finally get the chance, never giving up year after year as they save what they can to afford the trip.  Some will make it when they are young if they are fortunate, others will wait a lifetime and only make it there in old age.  Nonetheless, once there they strive to accomplish the rites irrespective of the challenges and again never giving up until they complete the rites or die trying!  Having gone myself and experienced it first hand, it is an awe inspiring event that has no equal in all the world.

The reward always comes at the end, and it is a sweet reward, made even sweeter when one arrives knowing that they did not give up.

May God accept the pilgrimage of all the pilgrims there in Mecca this year!

Till next time, Peace to you All!

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