Mar 9, 2006

The meaning in the moon

The moon, he said, is made out of green cheese.

What?

The moon is made out of green cheese.

He said it like it was a piece of a nursery rhyme, in the built-in lilt of a grown up recitation of childishness. I asked him if somehow the cheese-moon was connected with the man-in-the-moon, but he looked at me like I was crazy.

What? he said, which confused me.

When I see the moon and I say that sentence in that lilt, I always feel like I'm missing the next line or have forgotten the rhyming word. Surely that wasn't a complete thought. If it rhymed with something like please or sneeze or tweeze then I could see where the idea came from. Or if the man in the moon was made out of cheese, an idea which seems more reasonable to me than the giant floating benevolent rock face, that would make some sense too. But as it stands, the whole idea of the moon seems to be missing something.

A couple of years after I read Aesop and Grimm and Mother Goose, none of whom mention green cheese moons, I read a science book that said that Darwin's kid had had the idea that the moon came from the Pacific Ocean. He thought that gravity had for some reason reached down and grabbed this hunk of earth pulling and pulling and stretching until it rose up like a mountain and then until Earth was shaped like a dumbbell. They had a drawing: the sun was round and the planets going around were round except Earth, which had this ocean-sized moon-growth growing out of its side. Darwin's kid thought gravity had stretched this chunk out so far that it broke off into the moon and left a giant hole that later was filled up with the ocean. I'd never thought to ask where the moon came from but I'd seen that ocean. I liked the idea of Earth in a weeble wobbling orbit with the moon trying to break out of the side, but the book politly implied that Darwin's kid was crazy and had just made it up to impress his dad. The book said Darwin's kid had it wrong. But that was really the only idea of the moon that ever excited me.

moonPeople see all sorts of things when they see the moon. They see a man, and green cheese, and a rabbit, and a giant step. They see some godesses and their lovers faces, sometimes, and sometimes they see Nevada. When I hear of all the things they say they see I wonder if I've ever seen the moon. Maybe I missed it. When I think of the moon in metaphors I don't refer to love or mothers or madness or monsters. If pressed I might say apocalypse. When I think about the moon I think about a couple of golf balls lost in pock mark craters. It like I've never seen the moon at night. As if I've only seen it against a daylit sky looking like an erased spot.