Sunday, January 20, 2019

Wolf Moon, Super Moon, Total Eclipse and Mary Oliver

When I was a little girl, my grandmother would always say, “When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen.” I am sure there is a scientific reason behind this, but I like thinking my grandmother just knew those kinds of things. It was her main reason for gifting us with woolen underwear and long stockings, both of which we hated to wear.

January. I told my students this week how much I love January, and I truly am in love with January. “And,” I say, “without January, how can we love June?”

This January is full of music and poetry for me. Add that to the whistling tea kettle, winter nights at the campfire, and a house full of folks for dinner, and there is January.

This weekend promises more than the above, however. On Sunday night, January 20tht, we will have the first full moon of 2019. This full moon is a super moon, and if that isn’t enough, there will be a total lunar eclipse visible in North America.

Let’s start with the full moon. January’s full moon is also known as the Wolf Moon. In days past, with snow covering the ground, the wolves would surround the villages as they howled for food. In my imagination, I can hear the wolves on these cold nights. I tell this to my little grandchildren. Last summer, Brianna (age 8) closed her window on a beautiful evening. I asked her why she was closing her window. She looked right at me, “Wolves, Nannie. Remember?” Oops, I should be careful of the stories I tell. “Only in January,” I say to her. She opened her window back up.

There was controversy on which name to give the January moon. Some old-timers thought the Snow Moon was better, but that is now the moon for February.

It is also a Supermoon. This occurs when the moon is both full and reaches the point where it is closest to the Earth. Because of this it appears larger and fuller! Won’t it be stunning?

And yet there is more! There will be a partial eclipse of the moon on Sunday evening. This will begin at 10:33 P.M. our time resulting in a full eclipse beginning at 11:41 P.M. Yes, I have checked the weather forecast. It is to be eleven degrees below zero during the eclipse, but doesn’t that make it a bit more exciting? I would love to have a campfire during that time, but don’t hold me to it. If you want to come to this event and share in my garden space with a campfire, please send me a note. Bring chairs and blankets. I will furnish the tea!

For your information, this is the last lunar eclipse until May 26, 2021. For myself, I don’t want to take any chances of missing it, so I will be out there looking. Maybe you want to share this event with your family and your children. With a little coaxing, you will succeed, and think about the memories you will be making with them.

As you well know, not only do I love poetry, but I live in the middle of it swirling around my brain and spilling into my life.

This week one of my favorite poets died, Mary Oliver. Her poems are taped all over my kitchen cupboards. I read her work daily. She has been compared to Emily Dickinson, William Blake and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Oliver left home as a teenager and went to New York where she lived helping Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sister help sort out the poems and work of Millay. Perhaps there was the seed of poetry planted. She stayed a dozen years or so and began writing.

Seeing her poetry taped to my cupboards this morning, my guests and I had lengthy conversations on her work. “I always read her poem, Peonies, when mine bloom in the early summer. And just this week send one of her poems to my students.” One of my guests recited, When Death Comes, as we stood in the kitchen drinking coffee looking out at my snow-covered garden.

I want to leave you with this lovely quote from Mary Oliver, “Someone I loved once game me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

Perhaps this cold weekend in January is our own box full of darkness. Take off the lid, my friend, and go find the beauty.

(First published in the Herald-Republican)

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