Bella Luna

(This newspaper column was published many moons ago)

If the publishers of my desk calendar are correct, there will be a full moon tonight.

Right there in today’s cubical they’ve printed the words “Full Moon” and a little illustration to make sure I don’t miss it.  So if it’s not raining or cloudy I’ll make a point of gazing up at the old girl tonight in all her glory. 

I’m an old hand at that particular endeavor.

Like many of you, I used to search for the face of the Man in the Moon.  But unlike many of you I could never find it.  Other kids told me they had no trouble locating him, and a helpful one or two even pointed and tried to show me his mouth, eyes, and nose.  But I never made the connections, and only managed to see a mass of splotches.

When I was a little older and had given up on finding the elusive visage, I became concerned about the ominous effects of that brilliant orb in the night sky.

It was Chris Stevens’ fault. I think.  Or B.D. Owens.  I can’t remember which.  But one of them told me when we were about nine or ten that if you sleep by an open window and the light of a full moon falls on you can go crazy.  He called it moon madness.  Said it happened all the time.  Said it was what made hounds howl and werewolves prowl.

On one level I thought it was foolishness.  But that wasn’t a strong enough philosophy to sustain me on the night of the next full moon.  We had an attic fan in our house so my bed was by a window that was wide open in warm weather.  That night I looked at the bright moonlight on the bed, the floor, and the walls and tried to determine if I was starting to go a little crazy.  Finally I turned over and pulled the covers over my head.  

So I avoided going crazy.  Opinions will vary on this, depending on who you ask.

On a few occasions in my high school courting days I gazed up at a silvery moon with a pretty girl on the car seat beside me. That old car didn’t have bucket seats, which was a blessing for a high school lad hoping his companion would scoot over close.  And those girls, grandmothers now, were mighty pretty in the pale moonlight. They still are, the ones I see at reunions.

During my brief army career I stood a good many hours of guard duty on chilly German nights and was always thankful for clear skies and full moons.  That extra glow made it seem a little warmer, though of course it wasn’t. I’ve since learned from television meteorologists that clear skies make it colder.

Many moons later I occasionally glance up at earth’s old companion, perched up in the heavens like a dependable old friend.  Along the way I learned about the lunar pull of the tides and that the possibility of moon madness hadn’t originated with Chris Stevens or B.D. Owens (whichever one was the cause of my spending a few nights completely under a blanket) but had been a working theory for centuries.  Thus the term “lunatic”.

When I was sixteen my parents and I watched flickering images of lunar craters and plains as a trio of Apollo astronauts took turns reading the first ten verses of the Book of Genesis from the King James version of the Bible as their capsule orbited the moon on Christmas Eve.

The following July I watched, on the same Zenith console television topped with an amber-colored cluster of big glass grapes (most folks had television lamps in the sixties, and amber was a much-favored hue in that odd decade), as Neil Armstrong first set foot on the lunar surface.

When Armstrong died I looked up at the moon and hoped he would be buried there on one of those plains, beside one of those craters.   That is if we ever go back there so his remains could be transported.

But being a Navy man to the very end, his dust was scattered in the Atlantic Ocean.  Which is fitting.  But wouldn’t it have been perfect if the first human to ever touch the moon could have been the first to be buried there?  But like most of my great ideas, this one didn’t come to pass.

Anyway, I’ll be outside tonight with my constant fellow moon-gazer, my wife Karen, hoping the publishers of my desk calendar are right. 

But who knows? They might be lunatics.

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