The Moon is so beautiful. It is an ocean of sand. Jemma lived in the middle of this ocean, in a sandcastle she built herself. Every day, she added a new room to her castle, or made chairs, or tables out of sand. There is no wind on the Moon to stir the sand, and almost no gravity. So Jemma’s castle never fell down. It lasted forever. On the Moon, only, everything lasts forever.
Yes, the Moon is wonderful. But also lonely. For Jemma was the only one who lived there.
Every night when the Earth came up–for the Earth rises on the Moon just as the Moon does on the Earth–Jemma lay down in the sand and watched it. Or she made a chair out of sand and sat.
“The Earth is so beautiful,” she would say to herself. “It is a blue stone. It is…an ocean.”
Sometimes, Jemma watched the Earth all evening until it sank down again, and she sank down, at last, in the sand and fell asleep.
Every day, Jemma worked on her castle, and every night, she observed the Earth. Her castle grew larger and her curiosity grew. For she wondered so much about the Earth, and the children of the Earth, and its colorful oceans, that she was full to the brim with wonder. At last, her curiosity became so great, she could no longer stand it. “I will burst,” she said, “like a balloon, if I do not do something.”
So Jemma cupped her hands. She shaped them into a scoop. She took one great double handful of sand, and tossed it out into space.
The sand swirled around and around. It stretched through space, and down, to the Earth. It became…a staircase. Jemma took a great breath, for there is no air in space, and climbed down the staircase as quickly as she could.
It was a long way down. Imagine her excitement when she stepped, at last, onto the earth of the Earth she had been observing for so long. Trembling. Just imagine…
The staircase ended where a forest began. Jemma gazed at it, this new place, like one in a dream. The green of the grass, and the amazing size of the trees, which seemed to nearly touch the sky… Jemma could hardly breathe.
Jemma knew the sand staircase–for it was not on the moon–would not last forever. But, it would last for many hours. So, there would be time for her to explore, a little.
The Moon child moved through the forest. When a bluebird perched on a branch before her and began to sing, Jemma wondered for a moment if she was not truly dreaming. On the moon, the only sounds were those Jemma made herself–her own talking, or the gentle sound of the sand, in her fingers, as she worked. There was nothing so special, so musical, as the bluebird’s singing.
“This,” said Jemma, sighing, “is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.” She listened to the bird for nearly an hour. And then, eager to see and to discover more, she moved on.
In this great forest was a small stream. Jemma followed it out of the forest, and into a meadow, where it widened into a river. Many lovely things grow on the banks of rivers, but the loveliest of these by far, is the Blue Lotus flower. It is shaped like a flame and smells like the sweetest of fruits. When Jemma saw a Blue Lotus flower growing on the riverbank, lucky child, she stopped, bent over, and picked the flower. She held it up to her nose and breathed deeply in.
“This,” said Jemma, “is the most beautiful thing I have ever smelled.” She breathed in again and again. Then she placed the flower in her hair and continued walking.
Soon the river widened. The soil around it grew sandier, until it was sand. The sand became a beach, and the river became…the sea.
When Jemma saw it at last, up close, the blue-toned ocean of Earth, she raced up to it. On the edge of the shore, she dropped onto her knees. She scooped up the wonderful blue water. As lovely as the bluebird and the Blue Lotus flower were, the ocean was lovelier by far.
“This,” said Jemma, “is truly the most beautiful thing I have ever known.”
She was about to step into the sea, this Moon child on Earth, when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around and saw…a child. And another child. And another.
“Come play with us,” they said together.
So, Jemma joined them. She had always enjoyed playing by herself, but this–ah!—this was so much better.
One cannot play catch-you, or hide-and-find, or race-to-there, by oneself. The children taught Jemma all of these games.When they were finished, she taught them to make the most glorious sandcastle they had ever seen. As she stood and admired it, Jemma thought, “The Moon is beautiful – but not half so beautiful as the Earth. Perhaps I will stay here. Perhaps….”
When they were too tired to play any longer, they all sat in the grass and chatted. As Jemma listened, she heard a familiar sound. It was the bluebird. It had flown out of the forest and now joined a group of birds high in the sky.
“What’s happening?” asked Jemma.
“They’re going away,” said one of the children.
“Why?” asked Jemma, puzzled,for she could see no reason.
“When summer is over,” said another child, “the birds go away.”
As she listened to their song fade, Jemma felt very sad. But then she remembered the Blue Lotus flower in her hair, and plucked it back out to have another look. But the blossom, which was once so lovely, had wilted. Even the odor was gone.
“What happened?” she asked.
The children looked at her strangely. “Flowers die,” they said, “when you pick them.”
“They do?” said Jemma. She had never seen a thing die before. She lay the withered flower in the grass.
Just then, a roaring sound rose up behind her. Jemma turned around. The ocean, which had been so calm, was now wild and white. Waves came crashing onto the sand and onto the sandcastle. When Jemma saw the walls and towers of her castle falling down,she could no longer hold back her tears.
“What’s wrong?” the children asked.
But, Jemma did not answer. Instead, she rose to her feet–and ran. She ran away from the ocean, and into the meadow. She ran past the river where the Blue Lotus flowers bloomed. She followed the stream back into the forest, until she found herself, at last, at the foot of the sand staircase that had first carried her to the Earth.
“Oh!” she cried. For the staircase was beginning to crumble.
Jemma knew she could waste no time. Drawing a last, great breath of the air, she climbed the steps. She had to move much faster than the first time. More than once, she nearly slipped. More than once, a step dissolved the instant she left it. And when, out of breath, she finally set foot onto the Moon, the whole staircase shattered at once into dust.
Later that night, Jemma sat in the sand, observing the blue Earth.
“The Earth is beautiful,” she said. “It is full to the brim with wonderful things. But,they do not last. Their beauty does not last. It fades away, like the sand staircase. And it is gone.”
Jemma stepped into her castle. She built herself a new bed out of sand and lay back in it. She looked out the window.
“The Moon is so beautiful,” she said. “It is more beautiful than anything. For it lasts forever. On the Moon, only, everything lasts forever. And that is truly the most beautiful thing.”
She fell asleep, smiling.
1. Where did Jemma live and what was her castle made of?
2. How did Jemma get to Earth?
3. What was the first sound she heard in the forest?
4. Who did Jemma meet on the sea shore and what did they teach her?
5. Why did Jemma get so upset that she went back to the moon?