For the Love of the Moon – Micaela Leroux Burch

“O, swear not by the moon, th’inconsistent moon,/ That monthly changes in her circled orb,/ Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.” Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene 2

In middle school, my best friend and I were complete opposites. I was a more boisterous, adventurous kid and enjoyed spending as much time outside as possible. She was more of a soft-spoken,reserved girl, in love with books and poetry –– an idealist with a vivid imagination, always sharing her poems and stories with me. 

The year before I moved out of state, we reflected on how we balanced each other, comparing ourselves to the sun and the moon. Like the sun, I was a warm presence, encouraging her to share and be confident in her talents and artistic pursuits. Like the moon, she inspired me to be vulnerable and explore my inner world. Never before I met her had I felt so inclined to take my daydreams and run with them. She had such a calming presence, and I felt the most comfortable when I was around her. Despite the calm, my imagination was teeming with life, sharing my most fantastical dreams, fantasies, and stories with her.

Though she’s a ghost from my past now, I’m reminded of her every time I gaze at the night sky and feel the moon’s pale light embrace me and instill me with serenity. It is in this state of serenity, in gazing at the moon, that I feel the most attuned to the dreams, ideas, and musings that have accumulated in my subconscious. Perhaps this feeling explains why throughout recorded history people have associated the moon with deep,  fluctuating emotions, especially romance, in creative works. 

It is still up for speculation why the moon evokes this feeling.  Perhaps the moon itself, not just its image in the sky, has a literal tug on our emotions due to its gravitational pull, given that we are mostly water. Though this is likely not the case, the thought that the moon is to blame for erratic behavior is still commonly agreed upon and well-represented in art. Take Shakespeare’s “Othello” –– in act V, scene 2, Othello shifts the attention away from his murderous misdeeds by stating:

“It is the very error of the moon;/ She comes nearer earth than she was wont,/ And makes men mad.”

Astrologers also claim that the ethereal bodies determine our personalities and predict significant life events, both within us and in our relationships. They view the moon sign as a representation of our inner workings, and different stages in lunar cycles coincide with different occurrences in our love lives.

The main reason could simply be its beauty. Nothing else shines as long or as bright as the moon. The moon is a sight worth admiring in any phase and weather—waxing, waning, pale white and shrouded in thin clouds, or as a bright orange eclipse against a clear, starry night. I truly miss the moon on new moons and fully overcast nights. This beauty that withstands its ever-changing nature may remind us of the beauty of our loved ones or of the bittersweet variability of romance:

“O, swear not by the moon, th’inconsistent moon,/ That monthly changes in her circled orb,/ Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.”

         William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene 2

For these reasons and more, artists and poets have perpetually related the moon and emotion in their works. In songs and laments, the moon often serves as a representation of melancholy romance.

It’s not just me who thinks of special people in my life when I gaze at the moon. From the Foster the People album “In The Darkest Of Nights, Let The Birds Sing”, the song “Under the Moon” is an expression of longing. The narrator copes with the fear and anxiety of a long-distance relationship by remembering that they at least both see the same moon and sky. This way, when he looks at the moon, it feels the way it did when they were once sleeping together under the moon. He asks that they look at the moon too in hopes they meet in their dreams. He also compares their complementary hearts to the ethereal bodies:

         “Your heart’s made of gold, mine is silver like the moon.”

The moon acts as a beacon of their love. The song “Somewhere Out There” by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram also shares this same sentiment.

Take further, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” — Jimmy Webb. Since Webb appropriated the title from the 1966 Robert Heinlein science-fiction novel of the same name, it has been argued that this song is inspired by, even based on the book about a lunar colony revolution that communicates libertarian politics . The moon, symbolic here of land property, and her people are personified collectively as a woman that rejects ownership like a partner that has fallen out of love, despite the person’s attempts to reach her.

“I fell out of her eyes/ Fell out of her heart/  Fell down on my face/ I tripped and missed my star/ God, I fell and I fell alone/ The moon’s a harsh mistress /And the sky is made of stone.”

The combination of piano chords and Judy Collins’s soft voice create a dreamy lullaby that embodies the soft intensity of the moon. Aside from the material that inspired it, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” can also be interpreted as a tribute to this force of nature and a solemn recognition of our insignificance in the face of her presence. Further, the moon could represent the intense emotional ups and downs some claim are caused by the moon. In an interview for Uncut magazine, Webb stated that the song is about the intense range of emotions and events he experienced in life at the time. The moon becomes a symbol of life’s unforgiving nature. The moon is portrayed as a warm presence, then is quickly contrasted with other portrayals:

“Close enough to touch/ But careful if you try/ Though she looks as warm as gold/ The moon’s a harsh mistress/ The moon can be so cold”

In “Moon River”, sung by Audrey Hepburn from the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the moon is a metaphor for a lover, a “dream maker”, a “heartbreaker” that the singer wants to follow, regardless of the possibility of pain.

Each song uses the moon as a symbol of love in a different way. To me, this illustrates our astonishing ability to feel some sort of individual connection with the moon, despite the fact that we all are indeed looking at the same natural satellite. At night, we are often alone with our thoughts, leading us to look to the moon as a way to ponder our inner selves. What draws our emotions to this ethereal body, many will never know. As writer Joseph Conrad states, “There is something haunting in the light of the Moon. It has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul and something of its inconceivable mystery.” The nature of our love for others with its different types and intensities is similarly difficult to define. So, tonight I gaze on and confide in this mysterious figure in the night sky, reflecting on my love for the moon and its many forms.