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I've seen a good moon rising (with apologies to CCR)

by Andy Shaner

January 22, 2008 -

I have had many cool experiences and seen many cool things while being in Arizona. However I saw something yesterday evening that just might top everything. To some, this may seem simple or even really geeky. To me, it was awesome and in some ways prophetic.

Yesterday evening I was outside talking to my advisor and his family on the back porch of their home which overlooks the city. (This porch is an awesome place to watch fireworks displays from on the 4th of July because, you can see every display that gets fired from the city.) I looked behind me at the Catalina mountains which loom over the northern limits of the city. I noticed the sun was painting the slopes of the mountains that familiar pink hue that accompanies the setting sun. I glanced over and just as I suspected, the sun was setting behind the Tucson mountains to the west. This is a scene I can play out in my mind because its something I have experienced many times over the past four years. It's always a beautiful thing to see. I looked back at the pink Catalina mountains and out of the corner of my eye I saw the moon just barely beginning to rise over the peaks of the mountains. I was surprised I even noticed it at all considering such a small portion of the moon was showing. I realized that if the moon was rising just as the sun was setting, it will rise as a full moon.

I pointed the moon out to everyone and we all turned to watch it rise above the mountains. Just before the moon completely cleared the mountains, the bottom looked elongated, almost like the mountains were holding on to it, not wanting to let go. Then for a few moments the moon seemed to be perched right on top of one of the peaks. We jokingly took bets on which side of the mountain it would roll down. Finally, the moon completely cleared the mountains and began it's journey across the sky.

Viewing the moon rising above the mountains was prophetic in a way because of recent events that have occured in my life. As I watched the moon rising, I thought about my life - the more recent past and the near future. Over Christmas break I decided to graduate at the end of the spring semester with my Master's in Science Education and leave Arizona. I have decided not to complete a PhD at this time, but have not ruled out the possibility of doing so in the future. My departure from the UA will also signal the end of my tenure with the Phoenix Mars Mission. While I am saddened to leave both my program and the mission, the future is bright and the path is clear.

At the end of the semester I will be moving back to Kansas. Allison and I will be married in May and this summer we will move to the Kansas City area where we hope to have teaching positions - Allison in english, me in earth/space science. We are excited about beginning our lives together and beginning our careers as teachers.

Watching the moon rise over the mountains reminded me that life is full of surprises that sneak up on you. Some surprises are small, like the moon rising. Other surprises are big, like leaving Arizona early. No matter their size, surprises serve as reminders to me. Yesterday evening's surprise reminded me that even though the sun is setting on my time in Arizona, a life full of promise and happiness is beginning to rise ahead of me.