Liz Rever recounts how a childhood encounter entwined science, fact and fiction into a lifelong fascination with the relationship between the Earth, Moon and Sun.
When I was seven years old my teacher asked everyone in our class to keep a “phases of the Moon journal”. Each night, for one month, we were to find a spot in our house from which we could see the Moon, and log the date and the phase of the cycle we could see. I was living with my grandmother at the time. She had a guest room that I knew I was not allowed to go into, but I secretly did, each night, as its window provided the perfect viewpoint for moongazing.
One evening before bed I went to the windowsill of this forbidden room and as I stood staring up into space I heard a voice behind me say, “silverlight, silver beam, reveal what is unseen to me.” I stood completely frozen, afraid to turn around. I didn’t recognise the voice, but the moonlight reflected onto the windowpane the face of a graceful old woman, Margaret, a friend of my grandmother’s, who (I found out later) was staying the night.
“Don’t stare too long at the Moon or she will take a picture of you,” she said softly then added; “a full Moon takes a picture of you and a dark Moon will send it back.” Still silent, I wondered, “What kind of Kodak moment am I having?” The man in the Moon had a camera, and he was a she, that could take pictures of me?
The next morning in class we were each asked to report back the progress of our Moon journal. I stood up and stated that the Moon was in waxing gibbous phase and in a few days’ time she would be taking a picture of me that would take another two weeks to develop and receive back. Everyone in the class laughed and my teacher looked at me with disdain and said, “Elizabeth, we all know you are an actress but would you please sit down and be quiet?” The experience of the previous night was still running through my head. What was the silver beam? What was the dark moon? Was the Moon still a camera?
Keeping that Moon journal made me learn how to really observe. Even after the project was over I’d watch each night as the moon appeared to shrink down to a sliver and then increase to its maximum size. I still remember looking up to the sky and wondering what else was out there.
It wasn’t until recently that I started to think back to this childhood memory and Margaret’s notion that the Moon was a camera; as an adult this idea seemed to me to have some weight to it. We know that the moonlight we receive is actually reflected light from the Sun, so in a way the Moon’s silver beam is similar to photography, in that when we look through a camera lens we see a reflected image.
The Moon at its most full has long been thought to activate the most reversed aspects (or a negative of ourselves). Poetic reverie, lunacy, even witches and werewolves – the stuff of legend, perhaps, but also what of the subconscious aspects of our psyche that only a slower lunar based rhythm and time for deeper creativity and reflection can develop? In my understanding of metaphysical perspective the process of reflection is necessary to nurture mental, physical and emotional health and is integral to developing creative ideas. What if the Sun shines light on the obvious but the Moon’s light suggests something more mysterious? How many people, for example, claim to have their most creative ideas and insights late at night? Perhaps, as in photography, the negative contains the information to create the positive image?
If the Moon really is a camera I’d be interested to see the picture of me as a seven year old that it might beam down to me.