how high the moon

The “Man in the Moon”  masque sports a cocked eyebrow in the shape of a crescent moon,  and a  constellation of stars lights his face.

Listening to NPR this morning I learned that scientists were able to ascertain that last night the moon was as close to the earth as it has been in eighteen years–a fact that they said would make the moon appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter, even though it would remain exactly 365, 577 km distant–which is 30,000km closer than usual.

Somewhere there’s music / how near, how far
Somewhere there’s heaven / it’s where you are
The darkest night would shine / if you would come to me soon
Until you will, how still my heart / how high the moon

As soon as I could play four notes together, I began to play the great love songs and ballads–the kind that people mean when they  reference “all the old standards.”

All the old standards. What a blah moniker for some of the most richly emotive music of our recorded history. And by recorded history, I mean that which is on vinyl.

The music and lyrics were written in a less quantitative time, a span of years when the heart beat at a lazier tempo. There was in a way a deeper honesty in the old songs–a willingness to bare the nakedness of one’s hopes and desires. In those decades, love well-loved  and a life well-lived both mattered enough to drop the phony games that people play these days, and to instead be, well, vulnerable.

And so it was natural that as I walked last night, watching the moon draw so close to the earth  that  its yellow face blushed to  an orange-ish glow,  that the song that  came to my mind was  “How High the Moon.”

I couldn’t quite remember all of the words, and wanted to listen to it as I had played it as a child–pensively–and not with the ridiculous frantic pace that jazzers so often seem to gravitate towards, irrespective of the meaning of a song’s lyrics or soul.

I always feel a guilty pleasure as I troll through the labyrinth of  YouTube videos—sampling this video and then that one–it’s  much like biting into innumerable chocolates just  to find the perfect chocolate mocha truffle. In this instance, I found an exquisite,  meltingly beautiful performance recorded by Chet Baker in 1958 with his septet.

Baker plays the notes plaintively.

The tune is faint, the music is far away.

There’s no knowing, as there never is any knowing.

Near and far are as close as we can come to measuring the proximity of love.The most we can ever hope is that it is somewhere.

Perhaps… where you are.