A Veteran’s Journey Home

Steve Fuller

Each night my son and I have walked the dog together, we have sought out the moon to see its phase; he being particularly fond of the gibbous moon.  One might ask why he would have a favorite phase of the moon, but one also learns in the knowing of him that these questions will often be met with either the most succinct and basic of answers — “because”  —or the most obvious rhetorical response: “Why not?” Alas, it has become one of our new “things” on this journey together.  Finding the moon, celebrating the gibbous, and enjoying the quiet, cool walks under it.  

Since learning of his fascination, I have investigated the word’s meaning: Gibbous either means marked by convexity or swelling, or seen with more than half but not all the apparent disk illuminated. It can also mean humpbacked, but I want to focus on that second meaning. After all, if we take the childhood fable of the man on the moon, then doesn’t the gibbous moon describe the moment we are living on our walks together? He and I are both half-illuminated men, becoming fuller with each rotation around the sun. He a child becoming a man, me, through my own healing journey as a veteran, a man rediscovering the innocence of my inner child and allowing him space to become a new man in this new world I am creating. 

Together, he and I are mutual satellites of gibbousness silently orbiting an earth we sometimes do not understand, people we often find puzzling with their demands and distortions of truth, and a stillness we crave to quiet the voices in our heads so that we can move forward into the next day.

In a way, I guess we are all like gibbous moons, waxing and waning our way through life, becoming more full and less full as the seasons demand. Sometimes we disappear into a period of dormant self-reflection while we await our moment to begin shining light again; sometimes we feel like half of what we want to be, a piece missing, perhaps on the other side of the world or waiting to be found or being made in the day-to-day struggle.  

Nevertheless, I am grateful for these walks with him as we share the beauty of the Driftless night, even as the now-plowed fields fail to block the wind and we seem to be adding a layer of covering each week to protect us from the rapidly approaching winter. In many ways, he has shown me something new: I can see now how the phases of the moon connect me to place. I see the patterns of the moon rise and set from month to month, and appreciate how many more stars are exposed as the moon wanes.  At sea, I only marveled at the moon’s brightness and failed to recognize its story in the night sky, how it all worked together, how it told the story of our becoming more full versions of ourselves. 

Steve Fuller retired from the U.S. Navy in 2019 after nearly 27 years of service serving at sea on ships as small as frigates and as large as aircraft carriers. A visit to the Driftless and a desire for a radical course change brought him home to Wisconsin where he lives on a small parcel of land with chickens and horses and … more to come! He has been a creative writer since he first saw U2 perform in Live Aid, and now as he returns home after a life of service, he looks forward to sharing more of his writing with willing readers.