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The Lonely Moon
Nothing tugs at the heart more than Earth's closest neighbor
Every night when I take the dog out before bed, I look for her in the sky.
I have always thought of the Moon as “her” even though we have all searched for the “Man in the Moon,” the mysterious face created by the craters. Mythology and tradition claim the “man” was an ancient woodcutter, banished to the Moon for working on the Sabbath. Other cultures have him as a boy or a horseman from Norse tradition. In the Middle Ages, the Moon was said to be the god of drunkards, and several London taverns were named “the Man in the Moone”—with the old English spelling. The drunkard was always a “man.” Still, if you ask a Wiccan, they will call the Moon gentle, the beautiful Moon Mother. Ask anyone believing in Norse traditions, and they will describe the Moon as wise, strong, guardian of the night sky. Wholly masculine.
Still, I recognize the Moon as a woman. Our romance languages see her this way, too. La luna is Spanish for moon. In Spanish, nouns have gender. The moon is a woman. The sun—el sol—is a man. In many ancient cultures, the Moon was personified as a deity—and moon god or a moon goddess. Goddess seems more appropriate, given her nurturing nature. The Moon is like a lover just beyond our embrace, a figure of longing, a “just out of reach” symbol of guidance. Despite that distance, for a short time this month, we will never be closer to her.
It’s Blue Moon/supermoon season. The Moon’s entire sunlit side is in line with the Earth and during its revolution around us, the Moon reaches a point in its orbit where it is the closest it can get, about 225,623 miles away. The enormous and bright vision of the Moon this month won’t happen again until late in the next decade.
Each night, when I look for the Moon in the sky, I carry with me a kind wonder and melancholy. The Moon appears lonely, far away but close, tentative and shy, yet, like the “silent type,” it holds intrigue. She is like the mysterious woman in the cafe, sitting alone, quiet, drinking her tea, contemplating the universe, and strangely captivating us. Who is she? What is her story?
We do know some of the Moon’s story. She was formed billions of years ago, probably when a Mars-size body collided with Earth. What remained eventually became an orbital partner. Over time the Moon became a fascination, inspiring the human spirit to take flight. But at the same time, as we have been watching the Moon, it, too, has been watching us. “The moon had been observing the Earth close-up longer than anyone,” wrote Haruki Murakami. I wonder what the Moon thinks of us.
I know what I think of her when I look up. And now that she is so close, I can sense her even more—her pull, her heart beating, and if she had eyes, I could see the longing there. Can she see the same in me? Can she see that in our hearts together we are essentially and forever alone, not lonely as in sadness or turmoil, but alone as beings, “bruised by beauty,” as writer, Sanober Khan wrote.
Tonight I’ll look up again to the sky, and there she will be. Bigger than ever. Alone, but linked by the heavens, shining a light that casts a shadow over our hearts, our artful souls, and reminds us that all of us float together in this universe even as we are forever alone.
Photo: Skyler Ewing