I’ve always had a special relationship with the moon.
One of my earliest memories involves standing with my uncle in his Texas backyard looking up at the moon’s pocked surface through his telescope. I was an anxious child, but gazing at the moon that night settled me.
That view gave me a sense of smallness I could take comfort in: Our moon — the same moon people around the world look at each night — has been around for millions of years, and it will be for billions more.
Today when I look at the moon, I still experience that same kind of calm and unity I felt all those years ago, and tonight, the moon is all but begging for our attention. Earth’s natural satellite is at full phase and at its closest point in orbit. We won’t get another supermoon like this one until 2034.
And perhaps this full moon, more than any other should serve as a reminder of our smallness, like it did for me 20 years ago standing outside with my uncle.
This supermoon rises above a United States more at odds than it has been in recent memory, after an intensely divisive election that left millions around the nation and the world feeling shocked, angry and saddened.
The supermoon appears near the Statue of Liberty, Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, in New York.
Because of that pain, it’s difficult to encourage anyone to look up at the stars and hope. It may seem like space is something that pulls us away from the important conversations that need to be had in times like these on Earth.
But after years reporting what sometimes feel like frivolous space science stories during times of struggle, I’ve come to the conclusion that even when most of the world is embroiled in strife, we still deserve to feel that sense of unity that comes from looking out into the universe.
We share the same, tiny planet, and have the chance to gaze at the same impressive celestial object at nearly the same time. We should celebrate our smallness in the face of a vast, infinite universe by participating in the very human experience of staring out at the moon tonight and thinking of our place on Earth. The diversity of people looking up at the moon now should be revelled in.
You deserve that shared human experience, especially now.
The moon rises beyond the Arch in St. Louis as seen from the Compton Hill Water Tower on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.
Maybe tonight we can all look up together and marvel at the constancy of the moon and its imperfect orbit around Earth, allowing it to come closer and then move farther away over the course of the month. Maybe we can all look up and think about the light, which traveled millions of miles from the sun, shining down on the moon’s surface, illuminating its crags.
I’m not suggesting that looking at the moon will somehow heal the deep wounds revealed this week and last, nor is this a call for people to simply bridge divides because we’re all under the same moon. It’s not that easy.
There are people in this country that don’t have the privilege of not worrying about what may happen to them and their families under a Donald Trump presidency.
We need to keep our eyes clear and looking ahead, not up, to work toward a better future, but for just a few minutes tonight, I’m going to stare at the sky and be awed by our moon and the perspective it provides.
Then I’m going to get to work.