My Grandmother believed one should not allow the moon to shine through the window on one when sleeping. She would not elaborate on why, at least not with any explanation that I understood, but muttered something about moonlight through glass, and souls. Perhaps, I thought, the moon tugged at one’s soul, dragging it away by the hair, much as it does the ocean. Whatever the reason for her concern, she always pulled the curtains against the moon at night. Some say it is the new moon to be feared, others the full, but I remember only an admonition against sleeping in the light of the moon.
I remember once seeing a full moon high in the sky on a bright morning, and asking if it was alright to look at it through the window. She assured me it was, once the sun was up. That was the first time I recall pondering the mystery of the moon, and whence it took its power, and how did the sun affect it. I went off to find out how it was that one could see the moon, almost full, in the daytime. I was lucky, as I recall, in that serendipitous way that often happens to me – I discover something, and then coincidentally find some reference, or meet someone who who shares my interest. So it was then, because about that time there was a lunar eclipse, and we at Bunnythorpe primary school all spent some time learning about the moon, its phases, and how a lunar eclipse occurs. We learned the difference between that and a solar eclipse.
Or was it St Mary’s primary, Palmerston North? 1958, 59 or 60? I can’t be sure. My dear auld Catholic Irish Grandmother pressured my parents into sending me to Saint Mary’s so I could get a proper Catholic education. I was perfectly content at Bunnythorpe. But I digress. I was writing of the moon. I have loved her ever since I was small, and for most of my childhood I had an ambition to visit her.
I thought about all this the other night as from my bed I glimpsed through the parted curtains the thin sliver of the waning crescent moon. I went out to have a better look. The sky was clear and I stood in the chill air and looked up at the milky way, Orion, the Southern Cross, and the setting moon. She was vertical, like a tipped bowl standing on its side.I wondered what that might portend. Nana used to say that if the crescent moon was upside down, like an umbrella, it would be a dry month, and if it was like a bowl in the sky, the month would be wet. Here it was half way between. She never said, and I never thought to ask, what that might bode.
I did some research and found that lunar superstitions mostly centre around the new moon, and also that my grandma seems to have the weather superstition reversed, or else I misunderstood.
I remember reading somewhere long ago that scientists were investigating an apparent statistical association between the lunar cycle and some forms of human behavioral phenomena, and postulating that some primitive part of our brains was sensitive to the gravitational pull of the moon, in much the same way as some other creatures, such as the grunion, appear to be.
Later in my youth, I used to lay out under the stars and stare at the moon through binoculars. Indeed I can think of no finer use for binoculars, now that I am no longer sailing. I wish I still had a pair.
I used to look up at the moon, especially if I was away from home, and wonder if people I knew and loved, were looking at it too. I look and wonder still.