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Moonrise over Gun Lake Nov 14 08

Last night, after playing a gig at Gun Lake Community Church, I emerged into the parking lot to see the silvery disc of the Snow moon flying high above the treetops. Filtering its radiance through a veil of cirrostratus, it reminded me that the snowy months are at hand.

“Hunter’s moon,” observed Ken, the tenor sax man, but he miscalculated by a month. The Hunter’s moon occurs in October. After September’s beloved Harvest Moon, the Hunter’s moon is probably the best known of the different full moons.

Folklore has a name for the full moon of every month. Thirty days from now, the Winter moon will grace the Michigan skies. In January, through rifts in ragged clouds and howling snows, the Wolf moon will light the northwoods night. February will bring us the Ice moon. In March comes my personal favorite as a storm chaser, the Storm moon—and so on through the ensuing months and seasons: Growing moon, Hare moon, Mead moon, Hay moon, Corn moon.

But that list is just one of many variations on full moon names among different cultures and mythologies. The Farmer’s Almanac, for instance, lists the following moons, beginning with January: Wolf, Snow, Worm, Pink, Flower, Strawberry, Buck, Sturgeon, Harvest, Hunter, Beaver, and Cold. The names in this list all have Native American roots, and reflect a keen awareness of times and seasons.

But beyond their practical application as a simple calendar vitally linked to soil, hunt, and trade, the moon names for me capture something of the mysterious beauty of the moon. The poet William Blake expressed it enchantingly:

The moon, like a flower

In heaven’s high bower,

With silent delight

Sits and smiles on the night.

Last August, sitting on the shore of Gun Lake, I watched another of countless sunsets ignite the sky and then fade into twilight. It was a sight that will never grow old for me—fiery clouds dimming into a molten smolder, lights flickering on around the shoreline like jewels in a radiant necklace.

As dusk deepened into night, the Corn moon rose in the east, golden and majestic, like a Gypsy’s earing. The moon trail on the waters paved a shimmering path to the far shore, changing from yellow to silver as the moon ascended her ladder in the heavens. While the grown man in me knew better, the child in me wanted to walk that shining path to its far end, then step off it into the sky and stride up and onward toward that gleaming disc. Haven’t you yourself felt at times a similar longing—something inexpressible and poignant that comes not from logic or reason, but from a place inside where the sense of wonder and mystery dwell?

The Moon When Horns Are Broken Off of the Choctaw Indians has come and gone. In another month, the Oak moon of Medieval England will greet us with her cold embrace. The moons of winter have arrived. But the Planter’s moon of colonial America is not far in the offing, when warmer winds return to breathe life upon the land.




Written by Dave.