Friday, March 27, 2009

Whispers

This evening is about as good as it gets.

Spotting young Moons is a favorite sport of ours here on the island of Exuma, if for no other reason that we are more likely to have a clear western horizon than in any other place we live. Moreover, in February and March the Moon's track in the sky is almost vertical to our horizon, lifting the Moon higher into the gathering darkness. In February, the Moon at sunset was about 21 hours old -- the slimmest of crescents -- virtually impossible to spot with the naked eye (we didn't). Tonight, the Moon will be 32 hours old at our longitude. Given its steep ascent, this should be doable, if only the clouds cooperate. Not a record, certainly, but whisper thin. Eyelash thin. Breathtakingly beautiful.

So why? Why go looking for slips of Moon in the gloaming? I think of something Samuel Johnson wrote about poets that might apply equally to young Moon chasers: "To a poet, nothing can be useless. Whatever is beautiful, and whatever is dreadful, must be familiar to his imagination: he must be conversant with all that is awfully vast and elegantly little."