There are many things in life that, when we really stop for a moment to consider them closely, will likely bowl us over. Our own bodies, for example, functioning almost without our attention, year after year. Our loverís eyes, from which we read so much meaning even as they are used to get meaning from ours. Or the moon, seeming to hang up there over our heads from time to time, a luminous sphere almost unsurpassed in beauty, a gift to our eyes from the universe. Whatever its physical effects on us and on our world, it moves us emotionally, just to look at it.
The moon is up there every twenty-four hours, whether we see it or not. Most of the times when we do see it, itís just partly visible to us. In the upper Midwest, where I live, clouds obscure the moonóand the sunómore often than not. So itís a special treat to look up and see the moon. When itís close to the horizon, it seems larger than when it is high above us. Thatís just an illusion, but itís often stunning, nevertheless.
Its more brilliant companion the sun is even more important to our existence, providing us with warmth and light absolutely essential to our lives, but somehow it doesnít hold us the way the moon does.
A few nights ago as I turned out the light to go to sleep, moonlight poured through the Venetian blinds into my face. I stopped, gripped by its beam, as though I were an animal at the side of the road caught in the headlights of a car. Twisting my neck, I stared at the blue-white globe for a long moment. Old associations rushed over me.
Sitting with a girl on the fender of a car on a warm summer evening, watching the moon racing among fluffy white clouds, feeling warm and alive, and at the same time almost panicky because the time was speeding by just as fast. I didnít want the moment to end. A few years later, listening to Vaughn Monroe singing his famous "Racing With the Moon" and remembering that brief, delicious moment.
Lying in my sleeping bag outside a tent so I could watch the moon through branches of blue spruce overhead, fighting off sleep so I could hold onto that vision. Remembering an even earlier time, moving my bed up next to an open window so the moonlight could reach my young face resting on the windowsill.
The first time I looked at the moon through a home-made telescope, startled at the detail and breathless from the roundness of itónot just a disc of light but a perfect sphere hanging in black space, close enough to touch but as untouchable as the girl in my seventh grade math class that Iíd been fantasizing about for months.
Sitting on the deck behind our house just last summer, before the bugs came out, drinking wine with close friends and watching the yellow moon rise above the trees, intoxicated with the combination of companionship, a full stomach, quiet conversation, a peaceful eveningóand the full moon.
What is that hypnotic hold that the moon has on us? Poets as well as scientists have praised the moon for thousands of years, as long as writing has existed. Beyond a doubt, the spell has affected humans and even other animals since long before that. Itís been given a feminine persona for most of that time (even though we used to talk about "the man in the moon") and its relationship to us traditionally has been seen as warm and comforting. My being drawn to the moon since my childhood is not an aberration, but a common response.
Now, writing about it, I wonder why I donít seek out the moon even more often than I doóthe same question I ask myself about expressing my love to my wife. Why, indeed. The moon, perhaps, unlike my wife, doesnít care. But if I were suddenly to go blind, Iím sure that one of my regrets would be that I didnít look up at the moon enough, didnít bathe my face in its light, didnít marvel enough at this gift from the universe.
January 25, 2008