Monday, July 20, 2009

Moon Walk.

Today we had afternoon tea sitting in the sun on the deck – the first time we’ve done that since autumn. Lovely.

The contrast between sun (day) and moon (night) is striking. Humanity is fascinated by the moon - until recently when neon outshines it in our cities. It’s cycle was the stuff of legends. Roughly the same amount of time as a woman’s menstrual period it became symbolic. People planted by it and made travel arrangements. Poets sang about it and complained about it. It shone on many a lover and hid many a black crime.

When I was a boy we had an outside dunny, a long drop. It was quite a walk. There was always a torch on the bench inside the back door though in winter we had potties under the bed. But especially during summer on a moon-lit night I enjoyed going outside. Everything looked different if familiar. Looking at a full moon with its strange pockmarks was a sensual experience. I associate it with the country call of a morepork. It was not till I shifted to the city that I realised how the clean country air gave me a clearer view of the moon’s face.

It’s forty years today since the first moon-walk. I have two strong memories of that day. I was at Lopdell House in Titirangi where I was on a teacher refresher course. I recall seeing on TV Neil Armstrong’s step on to the moon’s surface. Today’s paper says that it was a 7 pm news viewing with tapes flown across the Tasman and that the actual step was broadcast over the radio. Memory plays strange tricks. We must have clustered around the radio during the day when the actual landing was broadcast, and again that evening around the TV.

There’s a neat Australian movie called The Dish starring Sam Neil about the TV broadcast of that walk. NASA had a back-up satellite dish near Parkes. According to the film a change of plans meant reception of the walk had to be made through this station. All sorts of complications, including gale force winds and a power cut, happened to add drama and tension. Add in a sweet romantic interest and comedy in the near-by town and the result is an appealing film.

The other memory is not my own. It’s Mum’s. On that day she drove Robert, one of my half brothers, back to Burnham camp where he was training. On the way back to Christchurch there was a full moon. She pulled over on to the verge and sat there gazing at it. ‘To think men have actually walked on it. In my life time.’ She was 56.


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