Entry for November 17, 2005
tag my mom painted the moon.
My mother painted the moon onto the night sky when I was a young child. She showed me the tides as they moved in and out on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, and I realized the world is a small part of a universe that is larger than I have enough imagination to understand.
This connection to the smallness of human life was later reinforced through an introductory astronomy class in college, the difference being more of the astronomy class knowledge has been forgotten, while my personal connection to the moon remains. At times it even grows.
When I say my mother painted the moon, I mean it literally. She had an artistic talent-one not passed on to me-and used it with oil on canvas to create treasures. At least I still have those. One of my favorite paintings is of the moon shining down on a part of the California coastline known as the Rincon.
The moon is not a simple thing floating above the earth, or something my mom left behind on her canvas, or a celestial body influencing oceanic movements and behavior in animals…no, it is something I will always have to connect me with my mom. That is what is important to me.
Often, as an airport terminal kid, which is similar to a latchkey kid, except my alone time was spent between the giant silver wings of commercial jets, I traveled back and forth across the country. One parent lived in Indiana, the other in California.
When I lived in one place, I was happy to be there, but was often sad, missing the other. When I left one place, I was sad to be leaving, but happy to be going back. Between times in California, when I’d miss my mother, I’d look into the sky, see the moon, and feel comforted. As a child, she said to me, “When you look up at it, you will know it is the same moon I am looking at.”
We all live under the same sky, influenced by the same moon. The same stars shine on all of us, the same sun lights our days. Mother realized this, and having this knowledge has helped me connect to life on earth in ways I don’t think I would have otherwise done.
I have come to believe the moon facilitates a spiritual connection between humans. Friends have told me how they feel comforted by the moon. It is said the power of a full moon influences behavior among primates, people included. In my experience, during times of the full moon, people have an increased rate of insomnia, they tend to act less cautiously, and do things they might not otherwise do. I cannot explain the phenomenon, but I’ve heard a lot of people make the same claims. The moon is a symbol of comfort, yet it is also seen as influencing rash behavior.
There is a lot of talk about what science has labeled the “full moon effect.” Most of the research itself is inconclusive, varying widely by scope, author and study. Some studies have shown that murder rates increase and decrease with the phases of the moon, and that animal bites are more common during the full moon. Other studies show no correlations. Inconsistency may be the only constant in these studies. Regardless, myth or fact, notions of changes in mammals based on moon phase exist.
Based simply on children’s literature, there’s actually a lot of comfort in the moon. Margaret Wise Brown’s story, Goodnight Moon, a bedtime favorite, is read by parents around the country, still, as when I was a child. In it there’s this big moon; silver, shining--powerfully comforting the young as the old lady sits, whispering hush.
Many children’s books exist that focus on the comfort of the moon. Frank Asch wrote Moonbear, where a young bear decides to do something about a moon he believes is shrinking each night. And if the moon could talk, by Kate Banks, includes the moon looking down on a child getting ready for bed.
I have always liked Eric Carle, and his moon book, Papa, please get the moon for me. His book helps settle youngsters on their way to bed. It features a parent-child-moon relationship-of-comfort.
In the end, the moon isn’t just special to me, it seems to be special to a lot of people for a variety of reasons. Of course, for me, it really is special for one specific reason.
I thank my mom for giving me a way to connect with her, because even though she died many years before she should have, and is no longer here with me, we still have the moon. I will never forget her, and it helps to think of her while I'm looking at the moon.
I know I'm right about all of this, don’t I? Or, maybe not, perhaps it’s all just lunacy. The powers of the moon really are as unpredictable as the associations people have with it. It is widely used in bedtime stories to comfort children, able to connect individuals across geographic divides, and yet, Luna, the Latin term for moon, is the root word of lunatic, lunacy, loony and other words meant to describe mental illness or disorder. Perhaps some beliefs are better left unchallenged by science. I am comforted by the moon, and I hope you are, too.