BOSTON — Bella luna. Those men shouldn't be up there."
The words, plaintively uttered by my Italian grandmother, startled me. The first man to walk on the moon, something that I saw as so progressive, she saw as ominous. At the very least, it would cause terrible weather, she believed.
Much younger then, I chuckled. It was more than a generation gap. We shared different world views. She could not abide the fact that men had walked on the moon. I couldn't wait for the next steps humanity would take in space.
Without so stating, my grandmother knew the moon as an archetype, a nexus of beliefs, customs, and emotions, much more than cold rock. Her deeper concerns were that a primal relationship of nature was changed forever.
She need not have feared.
The moon will always be more than a barren planet, psychically connected to us. We can't escape personifying it. To this day, when it comes to celestial phenomena, I'll take a moonrise on the high plains over a sunrise at the beach anytime. Is there a more intimate orb in the heavens?
Some native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska in their moon myths see a woman with a frog on her face. How to explain that?
In a few weeks, our attention will turn to the night sky (see article at right). Thirty years ago, on July 20, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
In Greg Brown's song, "Daughters," he remembers riding across Iowa. His young daughter accompanies him in his truck. A full moon rises. With all the wonder of a child, she tells him: "Dad, the moon is coming home with us."
Beware matter-of-fact thinking that would deny so magical a companion to children, or adults.