Moonstruck

On Saturday, July 20, the world will pause if only for a moment to reflect on one of the signature achievements in the history of humanity. Fifty years ago on that date, half a billion people around the globe watched breathless and spellbound as Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong, emerged from the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle, piloted by Buzz Aldrin, on the surface of the moon with the words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

This summer, Earthlings have been gearing up to celebrate the event with a trove of books, documentaries and exhibits. The Hudson River Museum in Yonkers and its Planetarium have a whole day of imaginative programming (noon through 8 p.m.) that includes owls and other sky hunters, moon-theme karaoke and the exhibit “A Century of Lunar Photography and Beyond” (through Jan. 12).

The moon’s relationship to photography is also the subject of the superb “Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography,” at The Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan in Manhattan through Sept. 22. This show demonstrates  the intimate connection between photograph and Earth’s lone satellite from the dawn of the medium in 1839. (It certainly played a key role on the Apollo flights as the display of cameras used by the program’s astronauts, who virtually became photojournalists on their missions, attests.)

But this wouldn’t be a Met exhibit if along with those cameras and astronomical instruments it didn’t include drawings, prints and paintings, like one moody canvas by Casper David Friedrich, whose early 19th-century paintings of people seen from the back gazing at moonlit landscapes inspired George Balanchine’s exquisite ballet “Robert Schumann’s Davidbündlertänze” and, we think, the opening of “Masterpiece’s” addictive “Poldark.”

In case you missed it, Robert Stone’s excellent “Chasing the Moon,” now streaming on the site of PBS’ estimable “American Experience,” upends much of the conventional wisdom about the run-up to the lunar landing to consider the Apollo program from the richly textured perspectives of science, politics, women’s and civil rights and the individual astronauts who were its executors.

Finally, we thought you’d enjoy this moon-inspired poem by Ardsley-based publicist Frank Pagani, who is also a published poet (“Greenburgh Poetry”).

– Georgette Gouveia

Lunar Eclipse  

By Frank Pagani

Come then, you and I,

let us stroll through waste and ruin

and behold this lunar eclipse.

In the eerie calm and shadows,

can you still hear the distant cry

of dinosaurs when the skies

belched flames and ashes?

Do you recall Shakespeare’s warning,

how perhaps these late eclipses

do not augur well for our time?

Even the frogs are dropping like flies

according to the Science Times.

Do you suppose the end is near

like the drunk kept warning

In Hitchcock’s “The Birds”but no one paid

him any mind, even Tippi

because she was trying to warn

the driver not to light his cigarette

by the leaking gas pump and we watched

speechless through her eyes,

the flame racing, the wings beating terror over

the whole town as the pump exploded

and no one was safe anymore, anywhere.

In the eerie calm and shadows,

can you hear how the wind picks up

just beyond those hills where doors

shut against the moon?

Come then, you and I, let us stay

a while longer before the storm 

rages and behold the earth’s shadow

depart the Sea of Tranquility

where we sent a rocket not so

long ago, thinking we could master

our destiny.

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