Looking up

moon and cross
I’m not sure of the origins of the names for the full moons. I suspect that like most folklore, the origins are mixed. Some come from Native American traditions, others come from European or other traditions that came with settlers. The January full moon is called the wolf moon. I’ve heard that the name comes from the sound of the wolves howling at the moon because it is difficult to find food in the winter. I’ve never lived where we could regularly hear wolves howling, so I don’t know if they howl more in the winter than in the summer. I hadn’t believed that howling was due to hunger, particularly. Anyway that’s the name the moon has. The February full moon is called the snow moon and that just makes sense if you live in the northern hemisphere places where I have spent my life. Mach’s full moon is called the worm moon because when the ground thaws the earthworms begin to emerge. I’m not sure that applies around here this year. There is a shallow, spongy layer of thawed ground, but I think there is still frozen ground underneath that. I haven’t been inspired to dig any holes recently. I also haven’t noticed any earthworms.

But the worm moon is full in the sky as I write. It is big and bright and the outdoors were well lit all night long. I was aware of the moon on both the drive to and the drive from work yesterday. It was nearing moonset as I drove in and I stood in the middle of Clark Street and snapped a picture of the moon and the cross at the church. The cross light wasn’t on in the early morning hours and it formed a silhouette on the face of the moon, but I was unable to capture the image I saw with my phone camera. In its place, I got an over-exposed image that is still, nonetheless, striking. As I drove home the moon was rising over the hills and provided bright light to the ground below. Technically the full moon was last night, but we always get a few days of nearly full moon on either side of the actual night.

Last night’s worm moon was also a supermoon. It is the final supermoon of 2019. A supermoon, also known as a perigean full moon, occurs when the full moon reaches its closest point to earth in its elliptical orbit, making it appear very bright and large. You certainly couldn’t tell just by looking, but NASA says the moon reached its closest point to earth at about 3:45 pm on Tuesday. The actual equinox occurred at 5:58 pm on Wednesday. The complete full moon occurred at 9:43 pm last night. So not everything happened at the same moment, but for someone like me who is just looking at the sky without a telescope, it is close enough. I call it a full moon for several days and I’m OK with designating an entire day as the first day of spring.

We’re ready for spring around here. Winter was cold enough and there was enough snow to make us think that it was hanging on a bit too long. I know the lake is still full of ice, but I’ve been thinking about paddling all week long. On Monday, I stopped by the storage unit to pick something up and lingered a while, running my hands over the hulls of my canoes and thinking of the paddles that lie ahead.

I’m much better at keeping up with my exercise in the summer. I’ve never been much for stationary exercise machines. I have a rowing machine in my basement, but I don’t use it enough to justify the space it consumes, really. Having it does, however, remind me of my intentions. But when the weather warms up, I’m quick to head out for a paddle or a row.

Having the full moon made me think of full moon paddles of the past. There is something especially wonderful about the quality of quiet when I’m out on the lake. The moon provides plenty of light for me to see and maintain safety. The animals around the lake are more active during the full moon and I often see deer around the edges of the lake. Even the beavers get insomnia during the full moon and they’ll be out and working. But those are just memories and dreams right now. The lake is still full of ice and the canoes are still in the storage unit. It will probably be a month before I get in the first paddle of the season.

April’s full moon is called the pink moon and May’s is the flower moon. I usually am on the water by the flower moon and always can paddle by June’s strawberry moon. I usually have to look up April and the same is true for July and August. In the fall we get the harvest moon and the hunter’s moon. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a good place to look for the names of the moons. It will have the dates for all of the moons, including a blue moon, which only occurs in the year when there are 13 full moons instead of the usual 12. Many of the mostly Latin names of our months come from ancient names for the moons. Most of the time I just use the names of the months, so last night was the March full moon. People seem to know what I’m talking about when I do that. But I don’t spend much time with astronomers.

The main thing is that the full moon and the equinox are making it feel like spring is coming. We can endure another spring blizzard or a few cold mornings once our hope is renewed by a few warm days. I kept trying to make excuses to go outside and kept the car window rolled down when I was going from place to place yesterday. I got to make a few visits to other pastors to deliver Palm Sunday posters so was walking around downtown in my shirtsleeves. That’s enough to put a bit of energy and spring into my step.

For now, I’ll keep looking up.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!