We had gone to visit friends in the country, but they tended to keep different hours than we did. We walked through the night for a time, enjoying the strange quiet. Orion strode the sky now, and the dawn was just breaking, so we were enjoying some Irish-style coffee with cream and whisky out in the barn so as not to disturb our hosts.
“It’s dusty and a bit still in here,” said my mother, sounding mildly vexed. She extended one hand and used the light that emitted from her fingertips to draw a large rectangle on the metal skin of the barn. The steel wall panel fell away silently, and we looked out of the new window Mother had just offhandedly sliced open towards a new dawn, with the new moon appearing to smile at us.
It’s funny, how you might look at something for fifty plus years and not be curious about it till one particular day. I was pretty sure Mother would know the answer to my question, so I asked her.
“Do you know why the moon sometimes lies on it’s side like that when it’s in the early stages of recovery?” I asked. Mother smiled faintly, obviously remembering something.
“Yes,” she responded, and she tapped a forefinger against her chin without realizing it, an endearing habit of many years. “It goes back a long, long time, of course, beginning with the dark of the moon, when the Lady Luna has no obligations to stay in the sky.” Mother’s face shifted slightly, as the memory returned.
“Luna had been importuned by one of the ocean gods to come to Earth for a visit and… a swim,” and here Mother’s lips quirked in a quick smile. “It’s easy enough to get here from there. She leapt to earth to enjoy the interlude while life at home in the dark sky was undemanding. She remained for a few days, enjoying the company of the sea god and the novelty of the busier world. Lady Luna lived far from Earth and for company she typically only saw her brother Helios, and the Greatest Eagle, who sometimes flew high enough to visit her. In her youthful folly, she thought perhaps she might spend time with the sea god on a regular basis.”
As for the sea god, he was surprised she had arrived at all, and while pleased to spend some time swimming with her he soon began to weary of hosting her, as he was unused to being considerate of guests. Luna had not visited many other gods, but she understood what was happening well enough. The Lady felt she had been foolish, and this made her feel that angry sadness we’ve all experienced. She was a young goddess then, this was all new to her. She lifted her spirits by resolving to depart as soon as she could see her home in the night.
When the barest edge of an upright sliver of moon reappeared in the sky, a sudden smattering of falling meteorites began to land upon the crescent; the little pebbles simply ran down the edge of the curve of the rock, rolling in the moondust, and slid off into the void. They fell all the way to earth and because of the dust and the heat of their passage, they became the first brilliant moonstones, unique in that although they could shed light, they contained no heat of their own.
Luna had begun imploring the Greatest Eagle to travel with her as soon as night came, and once those moonstones began to fall they could see the way, like a scattering of brilliant breadcrumbs in a dark forest. When they arrived she stood beside the Eagle, and working together they were able to tip the sliver of moon onto it’s back. Luna told the Greatest Eagle about her time on Earth, and while she confided the tale to her friend she created the next group of moonstones. These were cradled within the raised arms of the crescent instead of falling to Earth. And the new stones were fiercely hot to the touch.”” I looked at Mother for a moment, because the story was like a familiar melody that you can’t quite place.
“Aren’t moonstones made of the Lady Luna’s tears?” I asked. Mother nodded, her face somber now as she remembered the rest of the tale.
“Other than the occasional meteorite that bounces off and unwittingly slips by, yes,” she said quietly. “She did not want to share her tears with an undeserving sea, so there they remain, mounding ever higher. This is why even the tiniest sliver of moon glows with such brightness.” We looked out at the brilliant crescent in the sky, watching how it fleetingly outshone both the darkness and the dawn. Mother cleared her throat and held out her cup, as if for more tea. From the emphasis of her gesture, I saw that what she really wanted was more whisky.
“She still gazes down at the sea some nights. In an immortal’s long life there are always some small regrets, as you know.” I nodded, and gave myself a partial refill as well. “Occasionally a few Moonstones do fall and reach the Earth, but they retain their beauty solely on land, and they touch the ocean only with the greatest reluctance. Once they make contact with the water they cool to ash, their radiance forever lost.” We sat quietly for a few minutes, watching the sun rise as the sliver of moon quickly faded from view.
When we heard our hosts finally begin stirring, Mother headed back from the barn towards their house to help make the morning meal. I lingered a moment to replace the piece of metal in its proper spot, and then went out and looked at the diminishing crescent, now nearly invisible. I felt both kinship and sadness for the lonely goddess, perched high in the sky above us.
“I’m sorry,” I said aloud, and I meant it, but I’m not certain my voice carried across the void of the bright morning sky all the way to her solitude.
I've decided to wait for an opportune moment when we have no social obligations, and suggest that Mother and I go to visit Luna at her home. I think we all would like that.