A Surprising Way to Reawaken Your Sense of Wonder
A Super Moon?
A full moon matures this week. Over the course of the last month, a tiny sliver of light has grown into a large, luminous lamp. Some are debating whether the full moon of February 9th, 2020 is a true “Super Moon.” It IS the 4th closest moon of 2020, making it larger and brighter than nine of the other full moons that will occur this year.
Will the scientists and astronomers of the world decree the February moon to be a Super Moon? It doesn’t matter. No matter what they call it, the moon — whether waxing, waning, crescent, quarter, half, or full — is always super, a spectacle worthy of wonder.
Moonlight’s Links to Living
For thousands of years, the moon has been the subject of poetry, songs, and myths. A full moon has been blamed for the howling of dogs, the thirst of vampires, crime waves, and an increase in births in obstetrics units across the world. Women’s fecundity and the cycle of creation are tied to the movement of the moon, thus the term “monthlies.” In a more sinister interpretation, latent insanity, or “lunacy” — is provoked by the full moon. The word lunacy is derived from the ancient word, “luna,” for moon. (You've heard that the crazies come out when the moon is full, haven’t you?)
“Moonshine,” a liquid brewed under lunar light, is also responsible for my own family legend about a decadent ancestor who manufactured his own particular brand of brew in the hills of Southern Indiana. He paid dearly for his crime by spending years in the federal penitentiary. I often gaze at the moon and think about “Moonshine Smitty,” my great-half-aunt’s-one-time-husband who put his time in the “pen” to making beautiful beaded purses. Legend had it that my grandmother was gifted with a fabulous purse made by Moonshine Smitty. Ornate. Intricate. Breathtakingly-beautiful, the purse had thousands of tiny beads arranged into the shape of a colorful peacock. Sadly, my grandmother, a devout fundamentalist, didn’t believe in such decoration and no one knows what happened to the fabled purse, by-product of the moon and its shine.
The Many Meanings of “Moon”
A full moon does make me fantasize, one of the older meanings of the verb, “moon.” I visualize a pioneer woman on the lonely plains watching the brilliant moon and shuddering at the howl of coyotes. A counsel of mermaids convene on a moon swept beach, their tales flipping diamond-drops of water skyward. A forlorn and lonely fisherman drowns his sorrows with his worm in the murky green water under nothing more than a moon shadow. The moon piques my imagination and my memories.
I remember a high-school graduation in 1975 where two teenaged boys ran through the gymnasium, stopped in front of the graduating class, dropped their pants, and “mooned” the audience.
I have lived “many moons,” believed my Daddy “hung the moon,” and have, like Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat,” gone
“hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
…and danced in the light of the moon, the moon, the moon.
…danced in the light of the moon.”
Moonlight and music go hand and hand
The sparkling light shed like tears from the moon must capture the imagination of others as well, for the moon is the subject of hundreds of songs. Consider “Moon River,” “Blue Moon,” “Bark at the Moon,” “I’m being followed by a moon shadow, moon shadow.” But nothing beats my dad’s frequent singing of “Shine on, Shine on, Harvest Moon,” or his rendition of his favorite
“Moon, Moon, great big silvery moon,
Won’t you please shine down on me?
Moon, Moon, great big silvery moon,
Hiding behind a tree…”
In my mind’s eye, I see Daddy, black-haired and young, accompanying his three daughters on the piano as we crooned along with him.
The Moon and Mother Nature
The moon has influenced a good many farmers, too. Think about the importance of planting a crop of beans or peas only under moonlight. Potatoes under a new moon. And why do they call it a Harvest Moon, anyway? Science says it’s because the moon is nearest the autumnal equinox, but long before the “autumnal equinox” was identified, people all over the world were watching its movements. They knew when the moon got to a certain spot it was time to harvest. They called that moon, the Harvest Moon — aptly named without any scientific study at all.
Other traditional names like Wolf Moon, Chaste Moon, Flower Moon, Pink Moon, Hunter’s Moon, and Beaver Moon tie the earth’s loyal orbiter to the natural world and its seasons. They are organic, poetic terms that we’ve drifted away from in our hurry to categorize and scientize.
With all our technology and science, with our souvenirs of an actual visit to the moon, with constant data streams from drones and spacecraft, have we lost the magic allure of the moon? Have we become blase and cynical about our orbiting, light-reflecting satellite?
Maybe. Maybe we don’t tell our children that the moon is made of blue cheese anymore. Maybe modern parents don’t refer to the “man in the moon” when the shadows and crevices on the moon’s surface are visible from earth as gray lines — looking like the facial features of an old man. Now, we tell kids that mountains and valleys and light refractions make up the dark areas seen by the naked eye.
But I still look at the moon and muse on the magic of it.
I will never forget hearing Maw-Maw, my long-dead grandmother, clucking her tongue and shaking her whitened head while her wrinkled cheeks smiled in disbelief:
“Lordy! Lordy! A man on the moon! Who’d have thunk it?”
Our family sat crammed into the den watching the moon-landing that hot July afternoon of 1969. We grinned at Maw-Maw’s delighted incredulity as we ate the homemade treat appropriately named “Apollo” ice cream.
The older I get, the more I see that Maw-Maw was right to be incredulous at touching the moon. It was like touching the infinity of time. After all, month after month, year after year, century after century, eon upon eon, the moon has been repeating a pattern of birth and death. An embryonic light matures into a glimmering orb. A waning moon dies to nothingness, only to repeat the cycle again.
Long after my father taught us to sing, “Moon, Moon, great big silvery moon,” his great-grandchildren are echoing it back. Long after Kunta Kinte beheld the moon, fathers are holding their children up to look at the beauty of the heavens and the power of the universe.
Long after we’re gone, the moon will be glowing in the sky above, giving beauty, pleasure, music, meaning, and magic to those who haven’t lost their sense of wonder.
If you like this, you might also enjoy