Today is Monday, the day named after the Moon. Today is also Moon Day which happens to fall on Monday this year. Why wouldn’t I exploit these delightful facts today? This is a great time to contemplate our planet’s celestial satellite.
Of course, today commemorates the first manned expedition to the surface of the Moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to stand on the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969. Much has been told about this momentous event, but that is not the main focus of what I’m contemplating today. I’m thinking about the Moon from a mundane, Earth-dwelling human point of view.
We first encounter the sight of the Moon when we are very young children, perhaps before our perception of it becomes colored by fairy tales and other cultural myths. We try to make sense of this glowing object in the sky as it seems to follow us as we walk. We also notice that the object has different appearances on different nights. Most of the time it appears at night, some of the time we see it during the daytime, sometimes we don’t see it at all.
We ask a parent or older sibling about the Moon. We hear and read nursery rhymes and childish tales about it. We might wonder how and why a cow jumped over the Moon. Is the Moon really composed of green cheese? In the light of current scientific exploration and knowledge, why do we tell children such bizarre stories? The actual facts about our satellite are far more engrossing and inspiring than silly stories about it.
When we clear the mind of its chatter and simply observe the Moon in the sky, we become mesmerized by this object that connects us to something larger.
I was fortunate to have childhood bedrooms with a south-facing window. On some summer nights when the humidity kept me awake, I’d lay with my head at the foot of the bed and stare at the Full Moon as it cast its faux daylight into the room. As I gazed into the “face” of the Moon, I felt comforted and then easily drifted into slumber. I wonder about the many children who never had bedrooms with south-facing windows. How does it feel to have never been lulled to sleep by the Moon? Even my present bedroom has a south-facing window.
Many of us have long enjoyed observing the sky. We have witnessed solar and lunar eclipses, meteor showers, perhaps the rare sight of a comet. We are fascinated by the goings on aboard the International Space Station as it orbits the Earth. Despite all of these amazing events, our default fascination is the Moon. It is deceptively close but is actually quite far away. It is this peculiar temptation that continues to tease our curiosity and imagination. It represents an adventure that is reasonably attainable if you have the right connections and plenty of spare funds.
“We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”–Apollo 8 astronaut, William Anders
The first crewed voyage around the Moon allowed Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders to see the Earth from the perspective of the Moon. Although their craft did not descend to the lunar surface, the fact that they orbited the Moon was amazing in and of itself. This flight altered the inner lives of the astronauts and shifted our own Earthly paradigm as well. Our perception of our place in the vastness of the Universe has never been the same since then.
Meantime, we have the ability to go outdoors on a clear or partly cloudy night and look at the Moon. (Not tonight because the current phase is New Moon.) It is possible to take a walk or sit outside and take in the sight of the Moon. We may even conjure up an imaginary voyage into Outer Space. The Moon has inspired many stories and theatrical creations.
Then there is the traditional representation of the Moon as the Goddess. It’s phases reflect the stages in women’s lives and their biological cycles. According to the divining arts and various belief systems, the Moon governs female energy.
There are many more things to contemplate on this Moon Day. It is interesting to note how intertwined the Moon is with our collective and individual lives.
Have a meaningful Monday Moon Day.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the legendary polymath, Isaac Newton. “The moon gravitates towards the earth and by the force of gravity is continually drawn off from a rectilinear motion and retained in its orbit.”