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Checking in with the moon

I started this daily blogging project a week ago yesterday, on the day of the new moon. Yesterday was the first quarter, when the moon looks half-full in the sky. Now it’s early evening in the Bay Area, the sun will soon set, and the moon is shining gloriously right above my head, bright white against the blue of the sky, little tufts of barely-clouds passing between me and the shining satellite.

What am I going to write about today? I’m not sure – why not begin with where I am? I’m sitting on a wooden bench, typing on my laptop which sits on a wooden table outside a coffee shop around the corner from my house. The weather was warm today. I guess this is what springtime looks like in the Bay Area … the trees that lost their leaves are still leafless, but all around buds and blossoms are sprouting.

The truth is, I’m tired. Tired from a long week of work, from commuting into SF for a meeting, from walking in uncomfortable shoes. There’s so much I’d like to write about, ideas, questions, visions, dreams. But the good stuff, the juicy stuff, the stuff that matters to me most seems to take effort, thoughtfulness and attention that I am afraid I am lacking at the moment. The politics of privilege, the reason I began eating meat after 18 years, the concept of poverty redefined from a West African perspective …. all these are things I would like to write about, and hope to write about before this project has concluded. But not today.

Here’s what I can write about: The moon. I’ve appreciated its emergence in the evenings over the past week. That’s one of the things that’s so special about the waxing period, the roughly two weeks between the new moon and full moon. Wherever you are in the world, you can predictably find the moon every evening, beginning in the west as a tiny sliver of a fingernail and getting higher in the sky, progressively, as it reaches the first quarter, like yesterday. From now until the full moon on March 5, the evening moon will head further east, until, a week from now, whatever your time zone, you can watch as the full moon in all her glory rises in the east around the time the sun sets in the west. These two bodies are by far the the most important in the sky as far as we earthlings are concerned. It also happens that they appear most illuminated when they are, from our perspective, farthest away from one another. Somewhere in there is surely a metaphor, non?

Ah, but I am too weary to weave one. Instead I’ll share a fascinating piece of insight I originally found through Alexis Madrigal’s Real Future newsletter, a comment in response to the Guardian question What would life on Earth be like without the moon?

Inconceivably different, for at least four reasons. The first is that the probable cause of the Moon was that it was smashed off the Earth in its infancy by a Mars-sized rock called Theia. That impact gave the Earth its 22 degree tilt, which is the underlying cause of the seasons. The Moon also acts as a stabiliser, without which the Earth would wobble much more over its orbit. Second is that the Moon causes the tides, and a huge proportion of life is dependent on coastal zones; absence of tides would disrupt food chains unimaginably. Third is that the Moon provides light at night for nocturnal creatures that are adapted to operate in low light, which make up a huge proportion of animals. With light only from the stars, these creatures would probably have not evolved. And finally, the Moon has slowed down the rotation of the Earth by a few microseconds per year, which has built up over time to give us the current 24 hour day, and made the Earth rounder. Without the moon, day would be more like eight hours, and we would have a bigger equatorial bulge.
So a moonless Earth would have no seasons, no tides but a lot of wobble, a fat middle, very short days and no owls, bats or moths.

– Adam Rutherford

Would we even exist without the moon? If all of the above is true, it seems possible that the answer would be no. How interesting to think that this beautiful round rock, which seems to merely reflect the sun’s light back to us, has such a profoundly important impact on so many other aspects of our lives.

Last week, there was an extra treat that accompanied the crescent moon as she waxed in the night sky – Venus and Mars rode alongside here. Here’s the view of it from my kitchen window.

moon and venus

Early crescent moon, 2/20/2015

Today’s moon status: Waxing gibbous. 61.9% illuminated. Moonrise 12:08 pm, moonset 2:35 am (2/27/15).

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Filed under: Moon Cycle

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A traveler, a listener, a gleaner of stories.

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