“I think the imagination is the single most useful tool humankind possesses. It beats the opposable thumb. I can imagine living without my thumbs, but not without my imagination.” From Ursula K. LeGuin, The Wave in the Mind.
I have just turned the first calendar page on February. 2008. The year is no longer young, and the moon is on the wane. I found a lovely website from the U S Naval Observatory that lets you calculate moonrise and moonset anywhere for the whole rest of the year.
This picture*, in impossible shades of imaginary sky-blue-pink, is real – but it’s not my sky. This is what the world looked like when the moon rose in New Zealand on March 5, 2004. I don’t remember what I was doing that day but, according to the website above, the moon rose in El Cajon on 4:45 on an waning winter afternoon, and set in the wee hours (05:45) of the next morning.
(* Photo by © 2002-8 Mark Phillips, used with permission. Check out his photo page. He’s got an artist's eye for color and an offbeat way of seeing everyday things differently.)
But imagination serves where memory fails. I now know that my westerly setting moon rose a while later in the eastern sky of Paihia, New Zealand. I don’t have to imagine what the world looked like that moonrise, because I have this picture.
Now, what good would such a picture do if you didn’t have an imagination to see the moon rolling around the sky like a marble inside a globe? What if you lacked the imagination to believe that all things are possible everywhere for a moment every morning?
Here’s what Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849 -1924) imagined about the magic of sunrise:
“One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender, solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes on cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange, unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun – which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so” (From “The Secret Garden”)