As a boy, I was obsessed with two moons in the Star Wars series: Yavin 4 and Endor. The former is a jungle moon; the latter is a forest moon. The inspiration for the former moon was the geography that begins in Guatemala's Reserva de la Biósfera Maya and spreads to the end of the Yucatán Peninsula. The latter, that of an area that stretches from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest. The former appeared in Star Wars; the latter, Return of the Jedi.
Both moons made a profound impression on me because they presented the rich ecological mix of technologically advanced human societies with ancient rainforests. There was no contradiction between ports for galactic spaceships and thriving greenery. Culture and nature. Nature and culture. Green leaves and silver steel; brown branches and gray cement. This infusion in my young imagination was finally expressed in my first movie, Police Beat, which Rob Devor directed in the fall of 2003, and was mostly written in Astoria, Oregon in the fall of 2002, and is presently streaming on the Stranger's website.
But I only came to understand something of this feeling after a conversation I had with the Seattle-based British writer, Jonathan Raban, in the winter of 2012.
I begin with the gate of Raban's North Queen Anne home and the time of the visit. It is 4:39 p.m., and there is ice on the little dark road leading to the gate, and snow on the lawn between the gate and stairs rising up to Raban's place. A moment later, we are eating a hearty lamb stew (spiced Indian style) and basmati rice. Raban points out to me that the daytime view from the windows on the third floor of his home make it look like he lives alone in the middle of a great forest. Trees are just everywhere; people are nowhere to be found. But at night, when the lights of human life emerge, the windows reveal that he does indeed live in a big city. Fremont and Ballard are actually dense, urban neighborhoods; but this fact can only be seen after night falls.
And the city is there until sunrise, at which point it vanishes like some vampire. After the visit, as I walk to a nearby bus stop that's beneath a street lamp and a clear sky with a few cold stars, it occurs to me that something similar must happen with the view astronauts have of our planet from space. During the day, earth is all nature—green forests, blue seas, brown deserts, white mountaintops and clouds. But when the sun goes, nature goes with it, and the only thing one can see is the planet of the apes.
The same must true of the those Star Wars moons, Yavin 4 and Endor. From space, they are green during the day and alive with animal lights at night. Police Beat is where the worlds of Proust and Luke meet.
You can watch Police Beat here.