[Why cannot we say “these nights” as we do “these days”, to mean “lately”? I suppose it’s because technically, day can mean daytime, or it can include both daytime and night time, meaning full days of 24 hour stretches. But you would think that it would be possible, for when one talks of nighttime phenomena, to say instead “these nights”.
Have you read Greg Egan’s novel, Quarantine? It’s an early work, and not as fully developed as later works, but it does have one thing that blew me away, and which has come to mind lately, whenever I go outside at night.
In Egan’s novel, at least as I remember it, the narrator calmly relates how he remembers seeing stars in the night sky, as a child, until one night, they just disappeared. The stars all began winking out of sight, as a covering of blackness blocked out everything outside of our solar system. The sun, the planets, these all remained visible, but beyond Pluto could only be seen a darkness. This mystery runs through the novel, and I won’t spoil it since it’s important for the book, but when you read Egan’s description, you get the vaguely weird feeling that the earth and the whole solar system with it has been ripped out of the universe and thrust into some cut-off place of darkness.
Well, these nights, it’s been exactly the opposite, at least in Jeonju. Usually, you can’t see the stars that well at all. In fact, for a while I regular quipped to my girlfriend that only two stars were visible last night, or five, or however many. It’s not just light pollution, I think, but also plain old air pollution that usually makes the stars hard to see. Often, I have walked beneath the sky and seen absolutely no stars, which always causes me some pain. I remember my childhood up north, which held its challenges but also paid me in stars, in oceans of twinkling silences every night. In some senses, living in Jeonju as been like living in that little solar system in Egan’s novel, bereft of stars and cut off from the universe in some ways… a feeling that is perhaps also amplified seeing as I’m in a foreign country where I cannot see the stars.
But the last few nights, the sky has been amazingly clear. Actual constellations, such as Orion and the Big Dipper, have been visible! Moon has been very, very clear, and I’ve even taken some pictures that I hope to post within a few days.
Now, what do you see in the moon? I have to admit, I have always seen a man’s face. Yes, I am a suggestible creature, but I have always seen the two great shady hollows of slightly sad, but wondering eyes looking down to the earth above a tightly shut, silent mouth. However, tonight, looking up at the moon, I turned my head, and I swear I could make out the rabbit shape that so many cultures have always seen when looking at the face of the moon.
What’s funny is, I don’t know if what I saw is what Asians, Indians, and others have been looking at when they’ve described a leaping rabbit. Some of the attempts I’ve found online to trace it have been rather hilarious:
(click on the images to see their source pages, if you like. all images are copyright of their original owners, and not me.)
The three above just look downright wrong to me. That’s not the pattern I was seeing, at all. The following look a little more on the money:
I suppose it hardly matters whose sketch is correct, since there’s not really a rabbit there, but I am curious which image is the correct one, if any one of them is actually correct. (And I imagine one must be the rabbit that people in, say, Asia talk about and generally agree on seeing.) Can anyone tell me more?