Friday, January 18, 2008

Lunacy

You'd think in the tropics the Sun would be our primary object of celestial attention. Not so. The Sun shines with such reliable favor that we hardly notice it at all. It is the Moon that impresses itself most forcibly upon our consciousness.

First, through the tides. At low tide we are able to walk around the rocks that both ends of the beach, and thereby extend our walks by miles without benefit of sandals. So that twice-a-day pulse becomes part of our own activity.

We never tire of watching for the wispy thin crescents of old and new Moons, with their armsful of earthshine. Of special pleasure are the lunar dawns we see over the dark ocean as the just-past-full Moon approaches rising. And we welcome too those evenings when there is no Moon in the sky, and we can test our eyes on faint objects obscured by moonlight: the Double Cluster in Perseus, the Beehive in Cancer, the zodiacal light, and the winter Milky Way.

Although the Moon is bright enough to obscure faint lights, it is not -- like the Sun -- bright enough to obliterate the stars of its zodiacal path, and so we follow it on its celestial way, as tonight, when it cruises past the Pleiades. For the next weeks we will be looking forward to the total lunar eclipse of February 21, when the Moon dips into the long, skinny cone of darkness that the Earth wears like a wizard's cap.

I think of something May Sarton wrote in her Journal of a Solitude: "Whatever peace I know rests in the natural world, in feeling myself a part of it, even in a small way...To go with, not against the elements." Here in this dark place, with a full hemisphere of night, we feel the Moon's tides in our thoughts, faint, but perceptible, tugging, gently tugging our anxious spirits into harmony with nature's peaceable rhythms.