Lately, I have been — I don’t know if obsessed is the word, but let’s say intensely aware, yes — intensely aware of the moon.
Or rather, the moon’s absence.
Not that the moon has gone anywhere. It is, I believe, still out there doing its moon thing. It’s just that I can’t see it. Pesky rainclouds and misty mornings.
I don’t know if I was ever conscious of the moon before. I grew up in Ireland and now I live in the Pacific Northwest where the skies are not often clear. One doesn’t care too much for what one cannot see (out of sight, out of mind).
For almost a year, though, when I was away travelling in India and SE Asia, and the days and nights were bright and cloudless, I became one acquainted with the night sky. Now I am home, a slow and steady rain falls, obscuring everything, and I am missing the moon.
I began to consult this Moon Phase Calendar in the Old Farmer’s Almanac to see what was going on out there. Today, though I cannot see it, I know that just beyond the clouds the waning moon is 17% illuminated and looks a little like this:
I’ve been posting regular lunar updates and photographs on the book of faces and the tweeter. Some friends began to take pity on me (gentle lunatic) and have sent me some wonderful things like this video that shows the moon’s phases and libration throughout the year 2013.
I don’t really understand it (and I had to look up the word libration) but it’s mesmeric and oddly moving.
Yes, there is a lot that I don’t understand and I want to do something about that. So myself, the mister, and another friend have signed up for one of Coursera’s many free classes: Introduction to Astronomy from Duke University. The class started last week and there is some algebra that is terrifying to me but I’m excited. In fact, I should really be doing that right now as there’s a lot to catch up on but I just want to share one more thing.
The loveliest book I have read all year is the poet Mary Ruefle’s collected lectures Madness, Rack, and Honey. One of my favourite of her lectures is on Poetry and the Moon. Among many insights and ruminations, she sees the moon as: “…the incunabulum of photography, as the first photograph, the first stilled moment, the first study in contrasts. Me here — you there.”
Though, she acknowledges:
As Paul Auster points out in in his novel Moon Palace, it really goes like this — “You there — me here.” Land maps, the art of cartography, did not exist, could not exist, until after the astronomers flourished: “A man can’t know where he is on earth except in relation to the moon or a star…. A here exists only in relationship to a there, not the other way around.” The there must come first. The moon is very clearly the Other – capital O, full moon O — in relationship to which we stand and exist. Every glance at the moon, in whatever phase, pinpoints our existence on earth.
You can see what how perplexing it’s been that I haven’t been able to see it for so long. If there is no moon ‘There’, then where am I left standing ‘Here’? Rain rain, go away, or who I am will drift away. Though, perhaps it’s just a phase I’m going through…