Last week saw the third of a remarkably quick succession of supermoons (July, August and September) and it struck me, as I looked back through the photos I took of it, that its about time I shared more photos in my blog…especially shots like these.
I was so pleased with the clarity of these images, taken out of my daughter’s bedroom window with no flashier technique than steadying my lens on the window frame and holding my breath.
When I posted them to my Flickr account, they immediately settled at the top of my viewing statistics and stayed there for a few days – which made me smile, most of all, because of the question it gave rise to…why so popular?
What is it about the moon that we can’t seem to get enough of looking at it?
The other thing I noticed was that the ‘smaller’, more distant moon image gained more attention than the other. Was this because it puts the moon into its more familiar context, presenting it the way we are most used to seeing it, set against the vastness of the night sky? Yet the very thing that has garnered so much attention about the so-called supermoon is the apparent increase in its size, making it appear closer and more detailed than the moon we, otherwise, take somewhat for granted. The very fact this run of supermoons has been considered sufficiently ‘newsworthy’ to warrant coverage by the popular press speaks far more words than have been printed about the special place the moon holds in our consciousness.
So, what role is that exactly – what makes so many of us moon freaks? Is it because it’s the one and only thing we can clearly see with our own eyes ‘out there’, beyond the earth’s atmosphere, barring the rather abstract reality of whatever stars mean to the average person given we are told they may not even exist by the time we see them twinkling in their multitude?
The moon, so very clearly, is right there for all to see…the same giant lump of rock photographed with all the very same markings by so many people, all around the world. Is it, then, also because it unifies us through this ability to see it from wherever we happen to be (albeit, at different times of the day) on this spinning globe of ours? Does that help put things into perspective for us? Remind us we are more than just human, that Earth is just somewhere we happen to be, for the moment? Does it also serve to remind us of our bigger selves, to stretch our vastly underestimated concept of humanity into the universe-dwelling beings that we really are, which is so much more expanded than the view from the confines of our ‘little’ lives?
Occurrences of a full moon also have a tendency to thread through our human memories like a string of pearls. For instance, as I stood barefoot in my garden admiring its September magnitude, it was impossible for me not to remember the fact we enjoyed the previous one in a sweet-scented Provence garden playing cards in the candle-and-moonlight. Then, while we were doing that, I remember observing out-loud that the previous August (also a supermoon) had appeared like a giant luminescent hot-air balloon rising up over the parked cars and street signs that cluttered the edges of a long cobbled street near Sacré-Coeur and had beamed its electric energy surge through the white curtains of our Parisienne hotel room for two memorably restless nights. All of these memories would be incomplete without the walk-on part played by my lunar life-companion.
Whatever it is that attaches us together so firmly, the practice of moon-gazing is as compulsive as it is ‘old as the hills’; and will very likely to be as popular for our grandchildren as it was for our most ancient ancestors. One very topical article that cropped up this week and made me smile was about the latest installation piece by artist Florentijn Hofman – a giant moon-gazing rabbit lying on a ‘hillside’ adapted out of a disused military bunker. Sadly, the piece has since been damaged by fire but its brief nod to the universally recognisable ‘earth-dweller’ trait of staring up at the big round white thing in the sky was very timely in a year that has seen it hold our attention even more than it usually does.