Space, the Moon, and I

14 02 2010

This article makes me kind of happy:

I learned to read at age three, sitting in my father’s lap. He would hold me and we would read comic books. About age five I began using the public library. I exhausted their supply of books on earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Then I went on to dinosaurs and archaeology in general. I still remember how enthralled I was by Roy Chapman Andrews’ chronicles of his adventures in China and other parts of the far East exploring for fossils.

Next came a novel entitled “Danger, Dinosaurs!” by Richard Marsten. It was science fiction, and I was hooked. All through my extreme youth I read about space exploration and other planets, solar systems, even other galaxies. The universe was mine, all between the covers of a book.


 And now the International Space Station is really beginning to take shape. I know I am too old to go into space, but oh how I would love to visit the space station. Robert A. Heinlein wrote a story, “The Man Who Owned the Moon” about a millionaire who felt the same way I feel, and was able to make it to the moon to die. How glorious it would be to view the Earth from the Moon. And Mars, ai-ya, to stand on the red sand of the planet Mars, well, that would be indescribable.

Alas, I cannot and will not, but at least I can live vicariously and read about the astronauts on the internet, on the effing internet, hoo, real science no-longer-fiction at the tips of my fingers—I can read about the space station as I read about Roy Chapman Andrews 57 years ago. I should call someone on my cell phone, cell phone, ha!, on my little handheld computer, but, it’s still too early in the day.

Holy Moley Addendum: or maybe, Addendum: Holy Moley. I was just toodling around the web and discovered that Richard Marsten was a pen name for Evan Hunter. Crikey, that means the book might even have been well-written. But the few remaining Winston Science Fiction Series copies are too rich for my blood. Oh I long to go once more, dinosaur hunting in a time machine. Wait, I can do that with Ray Bradbury, too.


Moonlight and Hope

19 07 2009

春江花月夜 “Moonlight on the Spring River”

Li Po (Li Bai)

Li Po (Li Bai)

I love Chinese characters. There is so much implicit meaning. Not long ago I was looking for characters for the concept “hope.” I discovered the character “wang4.” The number after the word is the tone, thus wang is pronounced with the fourth tone, even.

月 is “Yue4” moon. This is the radical in wang4: 望. From the definitions, I infer a meaning of “to gaze in the distance at the full moon, with hope.” I love the idea of hope. For me, hope gives the world a certain solidity. Anything is possible.

Ha! An old gypsy saying goes, “You are never too old to get married, or jump off of a bridge.” Hope!

I love the moon and night, as certainly evidenced by the name of this blog. Tea by moonlight is an elegant concept, and both the Chinese and the Japanese drink tea whilst viewing the full moon. I recall stories of a famous Chinese poet, was it Li Po, who upon seeing the full moon leaped to his feet and wrote a poem on the ridgepole of the tea house? The next day, a carpenter carved the characters into the beam to immortalize them.

And legend says Li Po, in a drunken attempt to embrace the reflection of the moon, fell into the Yangtze river and drowned.

Cole Porter wrote: “In the still of the night, as I gaze out my window, at the moon in its flight, my thoughts all turn to you…” What thoughts the moon has inspired.

The famous Chinese poet, Zhang Ruoxu (c. 660-c.720) wrote:

Spring, River, and Flowers on a Moonlit Night

The tide in the Spring river meets the flat ocean.
On the sea a bright moon is born with the tide
And shimmers along the waves for thousands of miles.
Nowhere on the Spring river is without bright moon.

The river meanders through fragrant fields
And in the flowering woods moon makes everything snow,
Until even frost flowing in space is invisible
And on the shores white sands disappear in light.

River and sky merge in one dustless color.
Bright, bright sky, with only the moon’s wheel.
Who first saw the moon on this riverbank?
What year did this river moon first shine on men?

Generations keep passing without end,
But the river moon looks the same year after year.
I don’t know who the river moon is waiting for;
I only see the long river seeing off the flowing water.

One scarf of white cloud fades into distance,
Leaving unbearable sorrow in the estuary’s green maples.
Whose husband is drifting away in a flat boat tonight?
Who is missing her lover in a moonlit tower?

What a pity, the moon wandering through the tower;
It should light the mirror-stand of the traveler.
She cannot roll it up in the jade door’s blinds;
Or wipe it from the rock where she beats clothes clean.

At this moment, they see the same moon, but cannot hear each other,
She wishes she could flow with the moonlight onto him.
The wild goose flying off cannot escape this light,
When fish and dragons leap and dive I read patterns in the waves.

Last night she dreamed of fallen petals in a still pool.
What sorrow: with spring half over, the man hasn’t returned.
The current has almost washed the Spring away,
And the setting moon tilts west again in the river pool.

The slanting moon sinks deep, deep into the sea fog.
Between the Brown Rock and the Xiang River is a long way
And I don’t know how many people ride the moonlight home.
The setting moon fills the river trees with shivering emotion.

(Translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping)

“…I gaze out my window at the moon in its flight…”

A most famous Chinese musical piece, “Moonlight on the Spring River”