My eyes say their prayers to her and sailors ring her bell, the way a moth mistakes a light bulb for the moon and goes to hell.” [Tom Waits]
Now I think I know what it is about the Moon.
All the other planets have satellites. Most have many: little rat-rocks that chase their tails around a gas giant — it’s not the same. We have something big and bright and near that draws up our tides and our yearnings in the night. So big some wise heads call us two a double planet.
What we have is no captive asteroid. We have a lover, a subtle companion, a Scheherazade made of myth and green cheese and howling dogs and valentines. For all we know she raised us: Tidal pools where the rock-wash baked in the young Sun sprouted life on Earth.
To the eggheads, the Moon’s a problem. It’s all a problem to scientists. The Moon is not like the Earth: It lacks the iron. Therefore our Moon couldn’t have congealed out of the cosmic muck like we did.
They cracked their heads against it and sicced their big computers on it, and they’re getting close to an answer. Heartlessly knocking off all the other theories and models like “American Idol” contestants till they get an answer that fits.
The Moon got pulled out of us. Like a rib, while we slept unborn. It got bashed out of us by a shadow planet. Lilith, passionate and unstable, a firstlove almost big enough to be our twin. A dark Mars that could not share space with us and had noplace else to go.
“A dark, lifeless object less than half as massive as Earth careens around a newborn Sun. It is one of many planet-sized bodies hoping for a long career. But its orbit is shaky. It’s future grim. It is a character actor on the grand stage of the solar system, a player of great ultimate consequence but one destined to never see its name in lights.”
She fell into us and shattered. And what was torn out of us when she died, and what she dissolved into in her Götterdämmerung, in a year, maybe a hundred years — a teary eye-blink in the history of time — became the Moon in the night.
The Moon hangs guilty and sullen in our sky. We are two, the plodding, stable Earth and her, but there is a third, sensed and gone, and she, too, is in our eyes when we stare up and in the moon’s face when it looks blankly back down on our cheating nights.
Even scientists feel for her. They gave her a name, Theia, which I don’t think is the right name but it will have to do.
They, being scientists, want to look for bits of Theia in the corners of the sky, behind the old armoires of heaven, where the dust collects for years. Maybe they’ll find a girl’s diary, full of tears.
“Computer models show that Theia could have grown large enough to produce the moon if it formed in the L4 or L5 [Lagrangian] regions, where the balance of forces allowed enough material to accumulate,” Kaiser said. “Later, Theia would have been nudged out of L4 or L5 by the increasing gravity of other developing planets like Venus and sent on a collision course with Earth.”
Venus, of course. Who else?
It would be better if we hadn’t known. Now there always will be the shadow between us. These scars, years after the horrible crash we cannot remember, still twitch. It’s not our Moon anymore. It’s not the Earth we thought it was.
“His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.”
~ Miles Lascaux