Monday, February 14, 2011

Long Time Gone

 I was out watching the sun set last evening, enjoying the barking of Canada Geese as they circled and landed at a nearby pond on Hemple. After the sky extinguished itself and the air began again to grow cold and dark, I walked back to the house.
 High overhead the moon shone brilliantly. I looked up at it from beneath the flagpole, thought of how long it had been since the first lunar landing: 15,183 days. How could those 41 and a half years have passed so quickly?

 Think back to those six missions - Apollo 11 through Apollo 17 (minus Apollo 13 which did not land) - and the dozen men who walked there. Those were the days of living science! I cannot remember a more exciting time. After the first moon landing, I drove to Wapakoneta, Ohio to help welcome Neil Armstrong home. It was a magic day, listening to the first man on the moon speak to us.
 Why have we not gone back since 1972? Why, for that matter, have we not gone anywhere?

 Walking by the barn, I looked through the branches of the sycamore, full of fruit, and watched as the moon's light threaded through the bare branches. It will not be full until Saturday, but already the moon is painting shadows on the ground each evening. I can see the branches overhead without walking outside.
 Later, at 8:14 p.m., I'm back outside, setting my camera up on a tripod, using the garage as a windbreak. It is a pleasant spot: sheltered and private and yet open to the whole sky overhead,. The moon, soft beneath slight clouds, is so bright that I cannot look at it without losing some of my night vision. I snap a few shots and step back into the kitchen, still not particularly cold.
 Though it was a dozen Americans who set foot on the moon, I worry that, four decades later, we could not do it again. It is a marvel that it happened at all. My grandfather, who died in 1970, said he was a member of a generation that saw more change in their lifetimes than any other ever had before or would since. I think he was right. From the horse to the moon, all sandwiched between birth and death.
 Each time the moon rises it reminds me of what we have done, suggests what we might do again. Dreams die hard.