I love gazing at the heavens. Unfortunately I live in the fourth largest city in the United States and the proliferation of lights has made it rather difficult to see the stars in the sky. Only the moon and a few very bright orbs are able to overcome the competition from manmade illumination. When I was a child ours was a small town by most standards, surrounded by a number of farming and ranching communities which have now become heavily inhabited suburbs. I now have to drive a rather long way to reach a place where the stars at night are actually big and bright. Luckily the moon somehow manages to maintain its dominance over the night even where I live. As long as the clouds do not shroud it I am able to watch its phases cycle through a routine that is as familiar to me as the passage of the sun. I have never grown weary of looking skyward to see how the man in the moon is doing.
On Sunday evening I stepped into my backyard to watch an event that has not occurred since January of 1948, the year in which I was born. There in the sky was a bright and brilliant super moon so called because it appears to be much larger than the average full moon. That is because on November 14, at 8:59 Eastern time the moon orbited closer to the earth than it has at any point in over six decades. At that precise moment it was also as full as it ever gets.
My time zone prevented me from seeing the full effect of the super moon but I certainly got the idea. I found myself wondering if my mother or father had watched the super moon of 1948. They would not yet have known on that January evening that I would become part of their lives eleven months later. The seed that made me had not yet been planted but perhaps the idea of having a child may have crossed their minds. My mother often spoke of her natural inclination to have as many children as possible. She was in love with the idea of taking care of babies. She was only twenty one years old then and had a lifetime ahead of her. She would not have realized how difficult her journey would eventually become. She would have been filled with optimism, promise and perhaps a bit of romance. The world had ended a war not long before. She and my father were building a future that must have seemed as bright as that moon. I’d like to believe that they stood together holding hands, gazing at the night sky with great hope.
Who knew sixty eight years ago that we humans would one day walk on that very moon? How might anyone have imagined the changes and the progress that we have wrought? The era of television was not yet upon us. The idea of computers was still the domain of scientists and engineers. Telephones were tethered to outlets on the wall. Cars were devoid of seat belts and air bags. College degrees were the exception rather than the rule. Women still mostly stayed at home tending the children and the house. On warm summer days homes were cooled by fans that stirred breezes from open windows.
I would experience the sixty eight years of rapid change. I knew about the before 1948 only from books. I lived all of the time after from day to day as I grew from an infant to a teenager to a young adult to my middle ages to a senior. The progression has not always been smooth. There were times when the world appeared to be on the verge of a seismic shift, particularly when I was in my high school and college years. Most of my childhood was spent in a Cold War with the Soviet Union. I observed my elders worrying that there might one day be a nuclear holocaust. I watched the end of segregation unfold and spied on heated conversations between the adults who were part of my life. I boldly formed my own opinions and almost dared anyone to contradict my beliefs. I became my own person just as children have been doing since the beginning of time and will continue to do long after I am gone.
The day came when I was a young twenty one year old holding the hand of the man that I loved. I have been more fortunate than my mother. I have had the joy of growing old with him. He has been by my side through every phase of my adult life. We have shared the joys and the disappointments of living. We raised our children and eventually greeted our grandchildren. We have said goodbye to family members and friends who have died. We have grown in wisdom and understand the importance of counting our blessings and cherishing the moments that we have because we know that life is uncertain. The moon will circle our globe and we will move around the sun with regularity but all else might change in the blink of an eye. There is no time for taking our joys for granted.
The moon is beautiful whether it is the smallest of crescents or full. We associate it with humankind’s emotions. It is the stuff of legends and lore. It may engender romance or lunacy. On nights when it is at its peak it signals time for tiny creatures to engage in rituals tied to survival. Some believe that more babies are born during the full moon. Others insist that crimes and wars are more likely to occur on moonlit nights. Complaints of insomnia seem to increase when the moon is full. There are beliefs that more natural disasters occur under a full moon. Stories of old tell us of people who walked the night as werewolves or vampires. We somehow have a sense that the moon affects people much as it does the ocean tides.
It will be 2034 when the next super moon makes an appearance. By that time I will be eighty six years old if I manage to make it that far. I will know how things turned out with President Trump. I will have enjoyed watching my grandchildren enter their adult years and may have a great grandchild or two. Undoubtedly the world will have changed even more. The young men and women of the millennial generation will be running things. There will be new wonders invented that I have not yet imagined. Perhaps we will have found ways to keep our planet healthy. Hopefully I will not have to recall horrors or wars that have rocked our sensibilities but history cautions me to be ready for the unthinkable. Just as with the sun and the moon I will join my fellow travelers in the daily routines and rituals that move us slowly but surely into the future. I have enough faith in all of us that I truly believe that things will ultimately be just fine. It will be fun to watch history unfold even as I live it under the light of the moon.