I remember being small boy, standing with my father in the field outside our house. Shivers ran down my spine, not because I was cold, but because I was craning my neck to contemplate the universe above me and because I realised its vastness and my own insignificant part in it.
My dad pointed out constellations and the Milky Way. Maybe that same night we were out spotting shooting stars, or watching the moon cross the river and drop behind the forest. Maybe that was many nights, all memorised into one night.
That feeling of partaking in the incomprehensible breadth of the universe has stayed with me, and I welcome it back whenever possible. I remember lying across the pontoons of softly rolling inflatable boat in the Tasman Sea, thousands of metres of seawater below me, and a dozen or so kilometres of air above. And beyond that, the infinitesimal reach of the southern equator sky on an ink black moonless night.
My own son was born on a full moon, in a Brussels heatwave. In the moons that followed his birth, I began to think of it as his moon. I started to pay more attention to its monthly arrival, transformations and departure.
Less than a year and a half after he was born, Killian began noticing the moon in the clear Catalonia skies that we now live beneath. Before bedtime, he would seek out the moon and point at it, exclaiming “oawhhhhh!” We told him it was The Moon, or La Lune. It is now officially named “A Nune”.
He checks the sky – even sometimes during daylight – and finds what he’s after, well before we’ve noticed any pale white crescent in the blue. He spots “a nune” in storybooks, on advertising posters, in encyclopaedias, even on the logo for a local clothes shop. There’s a cracked tile on our terrace which also qualifies as “a nune”.
There’s been some 530 full moons since my own birth. I grew up metres from the ebb and flow of the River Slaney’s tides; during bimonthly spring tides, when the the Earth, Moon and Sun are in alignment, these tides rise higher. This put our laneway underwater, leaving me and my siblings with the improbable, yet irrefutable excuse of the moon being to blame for our late arrival.
Still, it has taken until now for me to discover new ways to appreciate the moon’s importance. We mark our lives by the moon, through march of the months. The moon pulls on the blood in our veins, as it pulls the tides. Thanks to Killian, I now pay more attention to the progression of the moon’s phases, its daily trajectory and the daily change in time of moonrise and moonset. I watched the last moon rise with Jupiter for a few days. We, as a family watched the spectacular supermoon rise last November.
On moonless nights, when Killian checks the sky, pointing at a planet – Venus or Jupiter, or a passing airliner and asking “a nune?” I am impatient on his behalf, for our satellite to return. It arrived as dusk fell last night, a pale sliver to the west, just 2.4% of it visible. My son stood looking out at the waxing crescent again tonight before bedtime. When the full moon comes on April 9, it will be Killian’s 21st.
The morning after I wrote all of the above, Killian’s first act of the day was to fetch and put on his wizard hat. Made by his mum, it features a crescent moon and stars.