Full Moon Metaphors


Verlyn Klinkenborg in the 1 October 2007 New York Times muses about a moonrise as seen from a train window. His essay "Watching the Full Moon Rise Over the Northeast Corridor" is such a work of gentle genius that I must save a fragment of it, for rereading and thinking and inspiration:

The full moon was rising on the ride home. At first there was just the suggestion of a disk low on the horizon. It might have been a moon painted on old red brick, faded and soot-stained over the eons, the remnant of an ad for some forgotten nocturnal medicine. I'd been watching the way Baltimore backs blindly onto the tracks — the toothless old houses, boarded up, beyond despair, here and there a wall gone entirely so that the houses seem to be leaking their privacy into the night. And then, when I next looked, we were passing the water's edge, and there was the moon just beginning to glow, though the night was too muggy for the water to catch the moon's reflection.

It seemed like a very slow moon, perhaps because of the speed with which the landscape shifted beneath it. I found myself thinking of the ancient notion that the moon's orbit marks the boundary between the immutable heavens and the mutability of the sublunary sphere. Against the backdrop of urban demise and development, this moon seemed impossibly constant. Even along the shore, where the flat waves seemed to abandon the land over and over again, the moon persisted.

I realized that to really understand the metaphor of the moon's mutability — the inconstancy of its path through the sky, its time of rising and setting, and especially its phases — you would have to live in a much darker world, where you could feel the steadiness of the night sky.

Something about the moon brings to life one metaphor after another. I remembered, long ago, describing a full moon rising in far northern California as "a fat man climbing a ladder," which seemed accurate enough at the time. But this moon was not a fat man climbing. It seemed to hang over the horizon. Then it slid slowly up the sky, and its color deepened. I tried to name its colors as it ascended and in doing so remembered how steadily and surprisingly life supplies us with the right analogies.

For at one point, just as darkness was really taking hold, I let myself say — and it was a cliché, of course — that this moon was as ripe as a tropical fruit. And yet it really was exactly the color of the flesh of a tropical fruit I had bought the night before. The fruit was called a mamey sapote, which comes from Central and South America. Unpeeled, it looks like an oversized and perfectly oval potato. But under the rind is a deep mahogany seed and the mildly sweet flesh of a ripe September moon, which is slightly aphrodisiacal they say.

... and quietly onward and upward, until the conclusion: "But soon it rose into some new analogy, some new association, and by then I had fallen asleep."

TopicLiterature - TopicLanguage - TopicWriting - TopicPoetry 2007-10-29

(correlates: NameThatTune, Mooning Jane Eyre, UnimaginableTimelessness, ...)