Thomas Wictor

Why I love the moon

Why I love the moon

Ever since childhood the moon has fascinated me. The full moon was amazing; I saw a rabbit playing a conga. The Japanese say the rabbit is pounding rice to make mochi.

I’ve always loved crescent-moon faces, such as in this photo. It’s a perfect illustration of my feelings about the moon, because along with my love for it, there’s always been longing. I now understand that the moon meant escape. I wanted to be up there, somewhere else, in the quiet and calm.

The moon has figured prominently in both the art I consume and the art I try to create. One of my favorite Gentle Giant songs is “The Moon is Down,” off the aptly titled album Acquiring the Taste. The band isn’t for everyone, but what is? My lunar ambivalence is mirrored in the emotional arc of the song. Though initially mournful it transforms into a celebration that’s still tinged with sadness.

Rickie Lee Jones’s “The Moon is Made of Gold” is another ambiguous song that expresses an optimism that contrasts with the poignant melodies and elegiac delivery. In parts the song is almost sinister, with its reference to visions creeping into your dreams. That’s a specific verb, “creep.”

And then of course there’s the unforgettable lullaby in Charles Laughton’s masterpiece The Night of the Hunter. I always wanted to fly away, into the moon.

A lunatic was once someone “affected with periodic insanity, dependent on the changes of the moon.” Such a person was “moon-struck” or “moon-sick.” The moon caused epidemics of uncontrollable dancing in Medieval Europe.

I understand why. Like me, the dancers wanted to escape. The following episode occurred during a period of grief-induced psychosis.

Somewhere in Arizona I pulled off the freeway at three in the morning to urinate. The exit ramp went into the desert for about a hundred feet and then the paving ended. I got out and marveled at the brightness of the moonlight; I could actually read my copy of The Far Arena by it. The Saguaro cacti all held up their arms in surrender, the blue landscape silent as a tomb. When I yelled, “Pumpernickel!” as loudly as I could, the deep-space vacuum made me sound stranded and puny. I thought I might be dead, but that didn’t really bother me.

Ghosts and Ballyhoo, page 166

The moon plays a role in my fiction too.

At her condo we sat on her balcony during the full moon and peered through her telescope, talking about selenography, tides, madness, menstruation, Galileo, Jules Verne, and Claude Debussy. Both our fathers had explained that the moon had oceans and seas, lakes, bays, and marshes. She knew them all.

The Ocean of Storms. The Sea of Rains. The Sea of Clouds. The Sea of Vapors. The Sea of Moisture. The Sea of Cold. The Sea of Nectar. The Sea of Serenity. The Sea of Tranquility. The Sea of Fertility. The Sea of Ingenuity. The Sea of Crises. The Moscow Sea. The Eastern Sea. The Southern Sea. The Lake of Dreams. The Seething Bay. The Bay of Dew. The Bay of Rainbows. The Marsh of Sleep. The Marsh of Decay.

“When I was little,” she said, “Daddy promised that someday we’d go up and sail them, just him and me. I used to look for the descent stage of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module. I’d be out on the deck of our house every full moon with my little twenty-dollar rinky-dink scope, thinkin’ I could find that thing squattin’ up there like a big ol’ spider.”

I did exactly the same when I was a kid.

Chasing the Last Whale, pages 180-181

To a certain extent, the moon still represents escape. It’d be great to fly up into the clouds at night and get a closer look.

Or in the dusk.

I created my own moon with a flatbed scanner and the lens from a magnifying glass. Leaving the scanner lid open, turning on the overhead light, and tweaking the hue produced a nice result. It looks like someplace I’d like to visit.

I don’t think I can recommend The Man in the Moon, Resse Witherspoon’s debut film. Though extremely well made, it strikes too close to home. I’ve had enough pain in my life. Just so people know, my fiction isn’t going to be of the “And then…they died” school. Like my favorite art about the moon, my fiction will offer up myriad notes. It won’t be a bell tolling, “DOOM. DOOM. DOOM.”

Bobby McFerrin’s “Moondance” is one of those songs I had to hear only once for it to take permanent hold of me. Listening to it in the dorm room of my college, I knew that someday I’d get my moondance. And I did.

I love the moon, recognizing as I do that it represents loss, sorrow, calamity, and murdered opportunity. Yet it’s so beautiful.

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