the moon, it seems, is full of puzzles. the blue moon, in particular.
and if you shuffle out the door tonight, if you sit upon a lawn chair, crane your neck, look up, what you’ll see is something you can only see, well, once in a blue moon. the moon tonight is blue, you see. not blue in sense of hue. but blue in terms of not so often.
once every 33 months. or so. to be precise.
this makes tonight so very special. this makes it worth a finger to the phone, punch punch punch, call all your friends, shout loudly through the phone: yo, look up, the moon tonight is blue. at least in north america it is.
over there across the pond the blue moon isn’t yet. it will be in june. down the pike in june. moons are like that, you know. they slip and slide across the time zones. what’s blue to you, is not to merry ol’ england. and vice versa. sorry, friends in london town, you will have to twirl your thumbs. your moon is on the rise. your moon is coming ’round the bend. your moon, tonight, is june all right. but blue it will not be.
ours though is way up high. is now. is in the month of may. is blue and getting bluer by the hour.
now what about this lunar puzzle? a perfect thing to ponder while gazing from your lawn chair.
it seems the moon of blue was first referred to way back in 1528, if you believe almighty, omniscient OED, the dictionary of true distinction, which tells us it began thusly: “yf they say the mone is belewe…”
“belewe,” the scholars tell us, meant “to betray.” thus, the old english might have meant something about the moon betraying the usual perception that there is only one full round one in a month.
which is true 32 times out of 33. the last time the moon was blue, or full twice in a month, was back in 2004. july that time.
but wait. despite the old english “belewe mone,” it seems the term, meaning the second full moon in a month, got lost in vapors until just two decades ago.
if, say, you’d pointed to the sky in 1961, and called a full moon blue, people might have rushed to check your brow for fevers. they would not have a clue. they would have concluded you’d been drinking pre-elizabethan waters.
but then, thank goodness for the sake of so-called lunar folklore, along came the board game trivial pursuit, genesis II edition, in 1986.
it firmly pinned the blue on full moon no. 2 in any given month. alas, that trivial little factoid is traced back, actually, to a boo-boo in a 1946 edition of sky and telescope magazine, which erroneously garbled a reference in the maine farmer’s almanac of 1937. it’s more or less by mistake that we call the blue moon blue.
i tell you, it’s enough to make you pull your hairs out, all the blue ones, that would be. this blue moon lineage is oh-so-loopy.
it’s downright lunatic, which of course refers to luna, the goddess linked with insanity, which has long been tied, sadly, to the moon.
apparently the moon was the big question mark in the sky to the ancients.
a few consternations: it changed. worse yet, it changed in a cycle that seemed to mimic, more or less, the womanly fertility cycle. twenty-eight days, you might remember. i have a distant recollection.
this was scary stuff, apparently, to the early charters of the heavens. imagine a shining thing on high whose ebb and flow matched that of all the charters’ wives and girlfriends.
egad. grab the smelling salts.
the other unsettling thing about the moon had to do with all the shadows. all the looming blackened patches on the face of ol’ man moon made the charters scratch their furrowed brows. the heavens, they presumed, were perfect. so what to do with shining orb that wasn’t only bright?
they made up stories, of course.
the hindus had a legend that involved a hare throwing himself on the fire, from which the crispy bunny was plucked by the god indra, ruler of the heavens, and laid out upon the moon for all to see.
the danes decided the moon was not celestial but simply a wheel of curing cheese.
although the subject here is blue moons, the danes did not go for blue cheese in their moon; they determined it was fromage vert.
a few blue moon crumbles:
if you are a dame and you’d like to ask a mate to marry you, today’s the day. today or leap day, which was written into scottish law in the year 1288 as a day when girl-types could do the proposing, i’ll have you know. legend has it, betrothal tables turn when moon is blue or year is leaping. the question’s yours to pop, sweet lady.
also, according to undetermined random folklore, when the moon is blue it has a face and talks to whatever is in its moonlight. go stand in a moonbeam tonight and you will start to howl. back and forth with mister moon.
there will not, has not, ever been a blue moon in february. the month’s too short. a mere 28 days. it takes a moon 29.531 days to do its lunar thing: to shrink to wax to shine in full.
apparently, in 1950 in germany, the moon was truly blue. although i was not there to swear on that. unusually heavy forest fires that summer led to cast of lunar blue. a german astronomer said so. ditto back in 1883, when the famed indonesian volcano krakatoa blew its lid, turning sunsets green and all moons blue. for two whole years.
certainly the rarest rare blue moons.
one you’ll not see if you look up tonight. but it’s worth a gaze anyway.
rarer than the rarest moon of blue, blessed becca is.
and so, to bec, whose moon is shining over casco bay, the biggest bluest birthday moon we wish for you tonight. our love for you shines on….
apology: so sorry ’bout the moon shot up above. it was playing hard-to-get, the almost-blue moon was. most of last night, the warm-up to the big hurrah, you could not see it, not a speck, when early on i tried to get the moon for you. all i got was cloudy sky, a sky of black and gray. but then (don’t tell those who think i should be sleeping more) when i tiptoed out of bed and onto dewy lawn at 1:16 in nightgown and bare feet, i found the moon was playing peek-a-boo. i caught it just before it slid behind a cloud, and never did return. i’ll try again tonight to get the rare blue moon.
now, by any chance, anyone have a blue moon tale hiding in a pocket? or thoughts about the moon and its tug and pull on, say, your sanity?