Sunday night is usually the time I start thinking about my newspaper column which I normally send to the Editor on Monday or Tuesday, and it appears in the paper on Thursday. Occasionally, I start and finish my column on Sunday night. We’ll see what happens tonight, so come on along with me and we’ll see.
My wife, the science teacher, and I, the poet, have been talking about the phenomenon occurring tonight (Sunday) called by the Media, the “Super Blood Wolf Moon.” Some call it simply the “Blood Red Moon,” the “Brick Red Moon,” or the “Blood Moon.” Some of those terms make you think of eerie stories about vampires, so it might be necessary to look at this thing more analytically.
As a poet, I think of all the many poems and songs written about the moon over the years. Since poets first began writing lyrics for songs, there have been over 150 lyrics written about the moon, some describing its color like this: “Blue Moon” by Sam Cooke, “Pink Moon” by Neil Young, “Silver Moons” by Sunset Rubdown, “Black Moon” by Deftones, “Orange Moon” by Erykah Badu, “Grapefruit Moon” by Tom Waits, and “When My Moon Turns to Gold Again,” Elvis Presley. I couldn’t find any that talked about a Blood Red Moon, — I guess “Orange Moon” was the closest.
Frank Sinatra gave us “Fly Me to the Moon,” and Thin Lizzy gave us “Dancin’ in the Moonlight,” and Pink Floyd called one of his album’s “The Dark Side of the Moon.”
There have been many famous poems (distinct from songs) written about the moon, in fact, some of the most memorable poems ever. Indeed, poets over the years have gotten a lot of mileage out of the moon!
One of the most famous “moon poems” is Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “To the Moon,” as he speaks of the moon’s pallor resulting from climbing the sky alone and looking down at the earth. My favorite “moon poem” is Emily Dickinson’s “The Moon was but a chin of gold,” – what an incredible metaphor for a crescent moon, a moon that then changes to full face with amber lips, and her shoe is the universe. A couple other “moon poems” are Carl Sandburg’s “Moonset” and Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Moonrise.” I prefer the poems to the songs.
The Houston Chronicle, KHOU, and many other Houston public communicators have been providing us with instructions on how and when to watch tonight’s moon in Houston. My wife, who plans to watch the celestial event, which is essentially an eclipse, later tonight, explained the phenomenon to me, saying that when the moon is in total eclipse, it appears reddish in color, because it is illuminated by sunlight refracted by the earth’s atmosphere.
That explained why it’s called a “blood” moon, but I continued to wonder why this strange event was called by the Media, a “Super Blood Wolf Moon.” KHOU came to my rescue by posting this: SUPER – because a super moon happens when a full moon coincides with the point at which the moon is closest to earth; BLOOD – just a description of its reddish color; WOLF – January and February are known as the wolf-moon months, because it is mating season for wolves and the reason they howl at the moon.
Thus far, the wife has been watching the full moon rise from the kitchen window. She had me take a look, and, of course, it hasn’t turned red yet. She has her itinerary planned for later. She will drive down to the end of the block at 9:30 p.m., to watch the starting of the umbra (reddening) at 9:33 p.m. Then, she hopes to be in full eyesight of the moon at 10:40 p.m., to observe the beginning of the total eclipse at 10:41 p.m. I hope she takes a flashlight for the maximum eclipse at 11:12 p.m. By midnight, it’s all over.
I’m not sure how this column will end, because when she returns to the house it will be midnight, and I will probably be asleep, so let’s shut it down now.
Ray Spitzenberger, a retired college speech and English teacher and a retired Lutheran pastor, has recently published a book, It Must Be the Noodles, on sale at amazon.com.