Meet my friend, the Moon
My Why audio version of this blog available here.
I recently took a photo of the moon using my trusty method of a smartphone camera pressed up against the eyepiece of a pair of binoculars. It's not quite as good as Nasa's at the top of the blog, but to my shock it wasn't half bad, this is it (I had to zoom in a lot and crop it of course):
I’ve always loved the moon, there’s a sort of understated, humble beauty to him. He quietly rises from somewhere and seems to be in the sky one minute, then gone the next. He doesn’t have a big show of rising and setting like the sun does, no bright colours painted across the sky with a large hello and goodbye. The sun feels like the cheery, jazz handed, diva that bursts onto the stage with pomp and circumstance and a big ‘Ta daaaaa’, and then ends the show with an extravagant explosion of beauty and majestic colour, to the shouts of ‘encore’ as we all long to return the next night for more. And then when the cloud covers her movements and we can’t see the rising and setting I imagine she strops, frustrated she’s lost her audience.
But the moon... To me the moon is the faithful cleaner that steps onto the dark stage to sweep up when everyone else has gone home. The music of the moon is like the contented hum of a man at work, as he makes his way across the sky. I feel blessed to get a peak of him if the clouds part over England, but I imagine he’s equally happy and bright whether he’s seen and appreciated or not. I think he plays with us, sometimes only showing a slither in a sort of hide and seek for those that care to look up, other nights when everyone’s asleep he shines his brightest just to light the way for foxes, badgers and hedgehogs as they snuffle around the countryside.
My husband will testify that I’m a sucker for an underdog in life, in sport, in films, and maybe that’s why the moon has grabbed my heart.
What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary. George Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life
I spent my latter teen years growing up in Suffolk, which is the big bump on the lower right side of the UK. It’s a fairly flat county, and because it’s villages and towns are well spread out across the countryside, there’s not a lot of electric light outdoors. The village we moved to was pitch black at night. When you turned a light off in the house you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Unless. Unless the moon was shining. I remember a couple of walks home from the local pub when the moon was at its best and you could see right down the road. On those nights, as my bed was under the window, I’d leave a gap in my curtains, to fall asleep with the moonlight on me.
Moonlight is very special because it’s almost not meant to happen. The nights are supposed to be dark, but then there’s this light that allows you to see just enough to watch where you’re going. It’s probably hard to imagine if you’ve only known the bright lights of a city and street lights after dark, but I would defy anyone to stand under a moonlit sky, full of stars, and not either externally or internally utter a small ‘wow’. Only at night do we fully get a sense of the expanse of the universe above us, and a sense of just how small we are. One day I hope to visit somewhere far away, in the middle of nowhere, where the stars shine through the dark like a well-used pinboard.
According to the Nasa website (and there’s a fascinating spinning image of the moon with all the other plants that I recommend taking a look at), Earth’s Moon (I love that it’s literally ours!) has had 24 human visitors, 12 moonwalkers and 100 robotic visits. You see, how cool is that? The sun would never let us walk around all over it! There are even current plans for a permanent human presence on the moon. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that though. I imagine getting to a point when you can see buildings going up on the Moon from earth and that kinda ruins it somewhat!
Did you know the Moon’s presence helps stabilise our planet’s wobble and moderate our climate?
Did you know it’s 240,000 miles away from earth? That’s about 30 Earths away.
Did you know that it’s about a quarter the size of Earth?
Did you know its surface is cratered and pitted from comet and asteroid impacts?
It’s the only place beyond Earth that humans have set foot on, it causes tides with a rhythm that has guided humans for thousands of years. The Earth and the Moon are tidally locked, meaning their rotations are so in sync that we never see the other side - you literally have to go into space to see the dark side of the moon. How many of us have a side we never show to anyone?
Last week in my blog I included this image that I saw a while ago on social media:
I want to be clear that I don’t encourage or believe in worshiping the moon, I just love it as part of a bigger creation, it’s another mind blowing aspect to me of a world that points me to an intelligent creator, rather than a big accident. And while I also love the warmth of the sun, and I feel it seeping into my very soul at times, there’s just something about the moon that I always come back to. I get disappointed on the nights I go to bed and peek out of the window before I close the curtains, and it’s nowhere to be found. And for something so familiar for some reason, I always find the need to point it out to whoever I’m with - "Look! The moon!"
While pondering on why I love it, I surmised that to me it feels like a great friend for those of us who struggle with life (which, let’s face it, is everyone at some point). I’ve had moments of gazing at it, or walking under it, at times when I felt very lost and at sea with everything else on Earth, and it’s a comfort somehow. And some days when the sun is shining and I see that the moon has crept into the sky too, it makes me smile as I imagine him sneakily sliding into the daylight hours to creep up on the sun with a small, mischievous 'tee hee hee'.
Because no matter what its size, the moon always shines. It’s always been there, it shone on Noah, Napoleon, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Dickens, Abraham Lincoln, Aristotle, Elvis Presley, now it’s our turn. It doesn’t care if you’re noticing it, or not. It’s battered and bruised, you can literally see the craters from here with the naked eye. It doesn’t pretend to be perfect. The sun could be the same, but we’d never know because it won’t let us look at it for long enough, it hides its imperfections by dazzling us with its brilliance. The moon teaches us that when we are humble but honest, we emit a beauty that is seen by others, especially by those that identify and are searching for something genuine.
The moon shines at the darkest time of our days. And we can too. It’s most often the worst times we’re going through that give us the greatest opportunity to shine. Are people inspired by a fantastic sporting feat or a large showy concert by a skilled musician? Sure. We love that stuff, it gives us a reason to cheer. But how far behind is the thought ‘but that’s not my life’, ‘I’ll never achieve that’, ‘I wish I was one of the people they were cheering for’, ‘I wish I had a career like that,’ ‘I wish people were proud of me in that way’.
Then let’s take the more unsung heroes, or the stories we hear of about those who have triumphed over adversity - enter all The Silent Why podcast guests. People who have been through heart-breaking, gut wrenching experiences, yet emerged stronger, wiser, with a desire to help others and offer hope. But not only that, have found joy in their pain, even when that wasn’t what they were looking for. When we hear these stories our minds are less likely to wander to jealousy and more likely to think: ‘If they can do it, so can I.’
And I feel that’s what the moon says when I look up and notice and appreciate him, whatever phase he’s in, however, big or small he is, he smiles at me saying: ‘Hey you. I see you. And if I can shine, so can you. Let’s do it together.’
I can be perfectly happy by myself. With freedom, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy? De Profundis, Oscar Wilde