It is 239,000 miles away and pretty much a wasteland with nothing to breathe in, 243 degrees Fahrenheit days, and 272 degrees below zero nights. And yet, I have always been drawn – like tides – to things lunar. I have no desire to go to the Moon. My fascination with the moon is what it changes about our planet and the people on it. I enjoy reading about gravity, tides and astronomical events, but I am more interested in things like moonshine, honeymoons, and full moon mythologies.
The Moon has its own category on this site and I write something for each Full Moon, but you don’t need the Moon to be “full” in order to see or feel its influence on Earth.
Bird watchers doing their bird counts use the full moon as a backlit point of reference for watching the night sky. The majority of migrating birds (swallows, sparrows, herons, warblers, flycatchers, nuthatches, wrens, orioles and most others) are moving at night.
Another lunar flyer is the moon moth. They are the large, colorful and feathery-antennaed ones. I have seen one live only once when I was quite young and didn’t know what I was seeing. I had to look it up in a big book. (Remember big reference books?)
Most moths and butterflies come out of their dormant stage because the temperatures start to moderate – like plants sensing spring. But luna moths’ pupa have a clear moon roof (really, a cuticle) that lets their brain detect lengthening days through its cocoon. Some natural magic tells them that it is time to leave the cocoon, head up a tree and hang upside down until their wings are ready.
There are also moon fruits, like moonseeds, which are not for us mere humans to eat (dangerous!) but are important for many birds.
Most powerfully and well-known are the ways that the Earth and moon synchrony affects gravity and how those pulls move our oceans. That is a very predictable and precise pull that we call tides. Those twice-a-day highs and lows might also be affecting the water inside you. After all, more than half of your body is liquid.
If lunar cycles affect insects, birds, fish, and other mammals, why not humans? Is it the fluids within us that are affected, or is it the moon’s changing reflected light?
On Earth, there are those not-land-not-sea places called intertidal zones where marine organisms live, reproduce, and die in sync with what the moon controls.
What about human lunacy? Lunacy is that word (from the Latin luna for moon) created to explain the madness that was once thought to be caused by Full Moons.
You have probably heard at least once that crime, emergency room admissions, depression, suicides, road kills, birth rates, stock market performance, dog bites, and medical miracles are affected by the moon. The science behind all those is questionable, but the belief and interest in them is real.
The article mentions that owls are less active when the moon is full and field mice eat more, while badgers mate more often, and those undersea creatures forage more in those darker new-moon periods. Maybe you can explain some of these things by saying that predators are less likely to see you when it is darker, so that’s when you are more active – but that takes the Romance out of it.
The moon phenom I still need to experience is a moonbow. This nighttime rainbow is even more rare than daytime beauty. You need a clear, dark night, heavy mist or raindrops in front of you, and a particularly bright full or near-full moon shining low in the sky behind you. There’s a full moon coming up in a few days – Be Ready.
More at motherearthnews.com/Nature-Community/Lunar-Nature.aspx