Archive for August, 2011

Alone Again – But in Good Company

This is the followup to last night’s moon sighting trip. Only this time no one was with me, well not entirely true as I had two of my usual four assistants with me. It did not take us long to see the moon and as always it was stunning.

No noise, no distractions, not even a breeze rustling the grass. All we heard were the faint screes of red-tailed hawk in the distance. We stayed nearly 45 minutes watching the moon slowly sink in the sky and vanish below the horizon.

We bid farewell to Ramadan, a most blessed time of the year, and hoped that we would live long enough to host it once again in our lives.

To all my Muslim readers I wish all of you a heartfelt Eid Mubarak!

Oh yeah… the moon.

Crescent Moon of Shawwal 1432

Shawwal 1432

Peace to you All.

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Sometimes Nothing is Better than Something

Empty Sky 29th of Ramadan


Last evening the 29th day of Ramadan 1432 came to a close.  It being the 29th day of the lunar month meant it was time to go out and look for the new moon, marking the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Shawwal and of course Eid Al-Fitr (the festival of breaking fast).

Astronomically the new crescent moon was not going to be visible here in North America.  The moon was to set only 7 minutes after the sun and its elongation was below the Danjon Limt for being easily visible with naked eyes.  We were not going to see it, but maintaining the tradition is just as important as seeing the moon, so off we went.

Meanwhile down in South America, there was a good possibility that someone in Chile might see it and bring fasting to an end.  People in Chile were in contact with the project and all were ready to convey and record the sighting report.  To our surprise the report came back as Negative – crescent not seen!

This seemed like the future had been sealed and fasting would continue for one more day.  But that would be too easy, right?  Suddenly, out of nowhere another independent sighting report appeared on one of the older moon sighting report websites, indicating that someone in Chile had actually seen the moon.

The sleuthing began in search of that person so that the particulars could be ascertained.  Once found, it is discovered of course that our sighter in question only spoke Spanish, oh wait Farsi too.  Great, find a translator and then begin the dialogue.  After much discussion, and well into the night, a decision had been reached.  Only one solitary sighting under very favorable sighting conditions did not provide the certainty needed to declare the end of  Ramadan.

It was nerve racking carrying that kind of pressure knowing that the decision resting on your shoulders would effect so many people.

Contrast all this with our carefree 40 minute trip up the mountain, a leisurely 1/4 mile walk to the top of a hill overlooking the fog enshrouded canyons of the Santa Cruz Mountains and below all that the mighty Pacific Ocean.  Allow our eyes to feast on the ethereal afterglow of sunset and then enjoying a communal breaking of the day’s fast on the 29th day with good friends.  We stayed there for no more than 30 minutes when we were sure the ‘moon’ had set seeing nothing of it at all, and then turned around and came back home.  Our conclusion as we walked back to our cars, we have one more blessed day of fasting and then we would all celebrate on the following day.

In the end both endeavors yielded the exact same result – Ramadan would be a 30 day month.  Need I say which undertaking issued the greater return?

Peace to you All!

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Crying Black Tears

The earth is in pain.  We are hurting it.  We poison its water.  We choke its air. We cut it limbs and we slash into its flesh.  For all that we do to the Earth, it still takes care of us by the sky sending down its life giving rain, the fields still give their nourishing foods and trees still provide us with shade and the air we breath.  For some the earth is an inanimate object held in check by the laws of nature that govern how everything works.  For others, this author included, see the earth as a living and interactive organism that has a spirit and purpose.

There are a set of verses in the Qur’an, the text that Muslims believe was revealed by the Creator to guide humanity to what is ultimately their only success, that speaks of the Earth.  They mean as follows.

When the Earth is shaken with her final earthquake.

And the Earth yields up her burdens.

And man says “What is the matter with her?”

That day she will proclaim her tidings.

Because your Lord inspired her.

That day mankind will come forth in scattered groups to be shown their deeds.

And whoever has done a bit of good will see it then.

And whoever has done a bit of ill will see it then.

Its a weighty set of verses.  They frighten me.  But more than that they help me check myself with regards to what I do to and on the Earth.  I not only consider the Earth my home, but my companion in life and the physical source of what I need to stay alive.  It is my spiritual center and from which I learn many important things regarding how to live in peace with the Earth itself as well as with my fellow humans.  It is my teacher.  It has a persona that we all recognize, for do we not call her Mother Earth?

Everyone can learn from the Earth if we just open our eyes to what it has to teach. For millennial the Earth has taken care of us.  It saddens me that we do not reciprocate that care in kind today.  It seems that in past generations we, as humans, understood the necessity of mutual care between us and the Earth. That what was good for the Earth was ultimately good for us as well.  Today we seem to have lost our way in that respect.  We have become selfish, arrogant and blind that our actions, even though appearing self-serving, are in reality harmful to the Earth and to our own existence.

Faith and belief are sensitive topics, I know, but what if the Earth truly does have a memory.  A memory so sharp that it will tell all about what we individually have done on her back.  That it will stand as witness against us on that final day and bear a testimony that no matter what we do we cannot deny.  Which group do you wish to be among – those who have done good or those who have done ill?

I wonder if the Earth ‘looks’ at us and is saddened by what it must do to us to rectify its unbalanced state and return to equilibrium.  I think it will rid us, or most of us in the process.  I think it knows that and I wonder if it is crying black tears over it?

Crying Black Tears

Black Tear

Just some food for the mind to chew on.


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