PacificEdge
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PacificEdge

The moon

IT IS THE SAME MOON but it is different in other places. It is not the moon that is different. It is our perception of it that is formed by the circumstances in which we view it. That became clearer as I watched the full moon sinking to the horizon of the far shore here in these southern latitudes.

The moon in Glebe

I was walking through Glebe with the two women with whom I had presented a workshop at the Building the New Economy conference when I saw it low on the horizon.

Glebe is an old, inner-urban enclave close to the CBD in Sydney, a juxtaposition of Victorian era terrace houses and other structures from times since. Crossing a street I looked up and there it was. A big, yellowish disk.

“Hey, look at that”, I say.

The others look and make appreciative comments, however I get the impression that the sight of the moon is nothing special to them. It is like it is something always there in the background even thought it takes on different shapes at different times of the month. We go on our way, making for a bar on Glebe Point Road to rinse away the mental clutter of the conference and refresh our outlook on the world.

It was the evening before full moon. There it hung as if to remind us that although our lives are proscribed by the engineered environment of the big city, there is another reality beyond it in which the city and the everyday world are immersed.

I don’t know why the people I was with didn’t see something more in our planetary companion than a quick glimpse sufficient to stimulate a few passing words of appreciation. I wanted to linger, but, no, we had to move on. The bar awaits. Had the mental blur of the conference dulled their sense of wonder?

Moon in other places

It was not inner-urban Sydney where I had my most memorable experience of moonlight. It was in the back of a truck, sharing space with half a dozen people and a load of cargo.

We leave Auki around sundown and take the narrow gravel road north. It seems hours that we are on the road though what our actual time is I have no idea. Things like that fade into a blur here in the Solomon Islands.

Night comes quickly this close to the equator. Late-afternoon’s light fades into darkness. Speed is out of the question on this winding road. A gravel strip that is the only land route to the north of the island, it turns into a bog in the rainy season. Passengers have had to disembark to help push the truck up the slippery road. Not tonight. The road is dry.

We maintain a more or less even pace, stopping once or twice at some quiet, darkened village to disembark people. Then we set off again into the moonlit countryside, not a light to be seen as we pass below overarching trees and through open coastal country.

It is the night of the full moon. We drive on. The road curves and we come upon the coast where it passes close to the sea. Magnificent is an understatement as moonlight reflects from the lagoon’s silvery waters to silhouette the coconut palms along the shoreline. Above, the moon fringes the clouds in a bright, silvery outline.

Words are no substitute for this vision splendid, this vision in black and silver. It is a true moment of being.

Morning moon

It was around 4am when something woke me. Opening my eyes I saw it was not dawn’s first light, which often did that. It was still dark.

Well, not completely. Sure, it was dark but the forest and sand dunes on the far shore were being cast into sharp silhouette by the bright silvery light of the full moon hanging low above it. It was not the only time the setting moon has woken me in the early hours like this. I leave the blinds open at night so the first light of the new day wakens me, but sometimes it is not that light that stirs me to consciousness but the monochromal glow of our rocky neighbour. So it was this morning.

I sat there and watched. It was a magic moment, a scene in black and silver sublime in its inspiring awe as the full round face of our lunar companion slid below the horizon.

A different moon

It is the southern winter of 1969. I am working for the postal service in the mail exchange in Redfern, an inner suburb of Sydney. I signed on for what I thought would be six months. That had been a couple years ago. Another couple years would elapse before I walked out of those big glass doors and headed for life in a place far, far distant.

As did every working day, that July day started by my walking to work from my room in the city to start at 6am. That was the shift I preferred because, finishing at 2.30, I had the rest of the afternoon and evening to do whatever I liked. Having that big chunk of time gave me a sense of freedom.

It might have been late morning when the staff was called up to the cafeteria on the top floor. There, we found a number of television sets. Around these we gathered.

A quietness descended and on those black and white screens appeared the fuzzy image of a man in a bulky white suit descending a ladder. He hesitated, then stepped to the ground. His words crackled over that great distance. “One small step for a man, one giant step for mankind”. We watched enthralled as Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon.

I was young on July 20, 1969. The moon wasn’t. It would never seem the same again.

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Russ Grayson

I'm an independent online and photojournalist living on the Tasmanian coast after nine months on the road in a minivan.