Turning on the Moon

I had always enjoyed the moon symbolically, but never gave its reality much thought.

As one who’s always been interested in mythology, I enjoyed stories about the moon. Or more specifically about, say, Artemis. Or Sailor Moon.

As a teen, I half believed, half didn’t, in crystals and spells and candles. I looked for meaning in the moon. I sometimes thought about its creation, that something struck the Earth and the debris became the moon. The moon is slowly moving away from Earth; it was much closer to Earth after its creation. I liked to think about small predatory dinosaurs, active at night under the glow of a large moon.

But I’ve never been interested in astronomy, never cared to know much more than the basics.

In fact, I think Cecil, from Welcome to Night Vale, can sum up my adulthood relationship with the moon:

Listeners, do you ever think about the moon? I was sitting outside last night looking at the moon and I thought, does anyone actually know what that thing is? Have there been any studies on this? I went to ask Carlos, but he hasn’t been seen much since that treacherous Telly’s vile haircut. The moon’s weird though, right? It’s there, and there, and then suddenly it’s not. And it seems to be pretty far up. It is watching us? If not, what is it watching instead? Is there something more interesting than us? Hey, watch us moon! We may not always be the best show in the universe, but we try.

Like, of course I know astronauts (and cosmonauts and scientists in other countries) have studied the moon and space. Landing on the moon was a real event, not something fabricated in a studio. And while it’s not an either/or proposition, I’d rather study the deep ocean than deep space.

My husband, though, loves astronomy. Loves Neil deGrasse Tyson and Cosmos (old and new) and hard science fiction.  For his recent birthday (a big one), I bought him the telescope that’s been on his wishlist for years, as well as a copy of Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe.

After dinner with friends, we headed to the park to set up the new ‘scope. My husband put the pieces together while the rest of us chatted and listened to “Weird Al” Yankovic CDs. (Later, we put on Rammstein. I’m not sure which was an odder choice for the beautiful evening.)

The park was located in an urban setting and had trees. Not perfect for stargazing. But the trees were few and were on a hill, so I hoped we might see something. Unfortunately, if you Google “best parks for stargazing in Oregon,” the results are places along the coast or mountains, too far away for a single evening’s trip.

I snapped a picture of the moon as the sun was setting:

The moon appears low in the sky over a park with a green field.
The moon and sunset, Oregon.

Finally, the ‘scope was set up and adjusted. My husband looked through it, then invited the rest of us to. It was focused on the moon and suddenly I could see everything: craters and space and lines and grey. The moon looked just like its pictures.

Which, of course it did. Yet I was seeing this with my own eyes. No filters or lenses.

We couldn’t stay at the park long; the weather was wetter and colder than we’d anticipated, so before long we were all shivering. I’m not suddenly an astronomy aficionado. But I cannot wait to visit the moon again, to see its reality, not just symbols.

By Natasha

History. Hindi cinema. Hugging cats.

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