optical illusion

March 22nd, 2012

“The moon follows us wherever we go.” My daughter said this when she was about three, gazing up out of a car window. And she was right. The moon has not yet and never will leave her sky. I’ve heard others tell of their little ones, usually no more than three or four, seeing the same intimate companionship in the sun and stars. Little children still experience themselves — correctly, I might add — as the axis in a spectacular universe, not apart from, but immersed in its shining seas. They haven’t been taught to know more, as we have; they haven’t been instructed to think less of what and where they are.

“That’s an optical illusion,” a well-meaning someone will soon insert into this teachable moment. “It only looks that way because the moon is so big, 3,476 kilometers across, and you are so small, 384,400 kilometers away.” The child sinks back inside the stiff straps of her car seat, which isn’t in the front seat, she notices, but in the safest, smallest notch in the back, where all the wonders are explained away.


  1. Oh, I think I did that.

    But I don’t think my twins believed me.

    Comment by Jamie — March 22, 2012 @ 10:43 am

  2. My dear friend the kindergarten teacher tells me that what’s missing in the children’s lives these days is wonder. She implores the parents in her class to please, please not explain, just to look and marvel with their children. But the impulse to teach and tell is hard, apparently, to subdue. I think of Rachel Carson’s A Sense of Wonder — how she, who knew the names of every star and shell, used to carry her little nephew in her arms into the night just to look and to see, to wonder and to be immersed in the mystery.

    Comment by Katrina Kenison — March 22, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

  3. My favorite book of my daughter’s collection is “Harold and the Purple Crayon” for that very reason.

    It always makes me smile when we’re driving somewhere in the car and she points out the window and says, “Mama, the Moon is following us!”

    Comment by Kace — March 22, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

  4. I marvel at my children’s seemingly endless sense of wonder and hope — despite their ages (10 and 13), they wish for their severely handicapped sister to stop having seizures, to talk, etc. — I’m not worried that these are “false hopes;” I will worry when all of it disappears.

    Comment by Elizabeth Aquino — March 22, 2012 @ 10:10 pm

  5. I remember when my daughter, now 24, was at someone else’s house, and she exclaimed, “Mom! We’re looking at the same moon!”

    Comment by debra — March 23, 2012 @ 6:16 am

  6. I always remember grandpa, who took me out in the moonless nights in summer in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, to look at the stars and wonder how many many you could see and how they gently shifted moving in the sky…
    Thank you for bringing a piece of childhood back!!

    Comment by ariane — March 23, 2012 @ 6:52 am

  7. …it is a joyous directive as a (new) grandmother to take my dear little ones out into the night…as well as into the day…and to wonder with them…

    Comment by celeste — March 23, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

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