The Rhyming Full Moon of June

The June 2023 Full Moon, popularly called the Strawberry Moon, will be on tonight, June 3 at 11:42 PM EDT or June 4 at 3:42 AM UTC. Okay, it will look very full even on the 3rd no matter what time zone you’re in. This third Full Moon of spring occurs about two weeks before the Summer Solstice. It is the Full Moon in Sagittarius.

“June” and “Moon” is a simple rhyme and there is no lack of poems about the Moon, and poems in which the Moon makes an appearance in its full or other phases. In an essay on “Poetry and the Moon” by Mary Ruefle, she says:

I am convinced that the first lyric poem was written at night, and that the moon was witness to the event and that the event was witness to the moon. For me, the moon has always been the very embodiment of lyric poetry. In the West, lyric poetry begins with a woman on an island in the seventh or sixth century BC, and I say now: lyric poetry begins with a woman on an island on a moonlit night, when the moon is nearing full or just the other side of it, or on the dot… Let’s call her Sappho. One can hardly say these little songs have survived—for we have only fragments—but even this seems fitting, for what is the moment but a fragment of greater time?

Tonight I’ve watched
the moon and then
the Pleiades
go down

The night is now
half-gone; youth
goes; I am

in bed alone

Sappho sees the Moon and the Pleiades which is a group of more than 800 stars located about 410 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. But they would have been known for far fewer stars that can be seen by the naked eye which we call the “Seven Sisters” (and the less poetic Messier 45). The name comes from a Greek legend. The Pleiades are the seven daughters of the Titan god Atlas and the ocean nymph Pleione. During an ancient war, Atlas rebelled against Zeus, the king of the gods, who sentenced his foe to forever hold up the heavens on his shoulders. The sisters were so sad that Zeus allowed them a place in the sky in order to be close to their father.

There is a section of the poem “To the Moon” by Percy Bysshe Shelley that is often shown as its own short poem.

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing Heaven, and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,—
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy

Shelley asks the Moon why it is pale and answers for the satellite.

Emily Dickinson has several lunar poems. In this one, he sees a Full Moon (maybe not exactly full since it looks that way for several days) that had looked different just a few nights ago. When do you think the Moon has phase with a “Chin of Gold”?

The Moon was but a Chin of Gold
A Night or two ago—
And now she turns Her perfect Face
Upon the World below—

If we keep reading Emily’s poem, we start to wonder if she is really writing about the Moon at all.

Her Forehead is of Amplest Blonde—
Her Cheek—a Beryl hewn—
Her Eye unto the Summer Dew
The likest I have known—

Her Lips of Amber never part—
But what must be the smile
Upon Her Friend she could confer
Were such Her Silver Will …

Carl Sandburg’s “Moonset” is an odd one and not what I would think is typical for him.

Leaves of poplars pick Japanese prints against the west
Moon sand on the canal doubles the changing pictures.
The moon’s good-by ends pictures.
The west is empty. All else is empty. No moon-talk at all now.
Only dark listening to dark.

It’s not very surprising that Sylvia Plath sees the Moon a bit differently in “The Moon And The Yew Tree.”

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness –

And to end my Moon gazing, a haiku.

The moon glows the same:
it is the drifting cloud forms
make it seem to change.
_ Basho

Advice From a Sundial

The sundial, is the earliest type of timekeeping device, which indicates the time of day by the position of the shadow of some object exposed to the sun’s rays. As the day progresses, the sun moves across the sky, causing the shadow of the object to move and indicating the passage of time. The earliest sundials were inscribed with inscriptions and aphorisms. Some were practical, some philosophical and a few are just strange.

In 1737, a book about how to build a sundial included a selection of three hundred mottos that might be used on sundials. Several books were ultimately published, among them Alfred H. Hyatt’s 1903 A Book of Sundial Mottoes. It’s a small gift-type book, geared toward gardeners as sundials had by then become part of English country garden design. Since a sundial is about Time many of the mottoes were about our use of time.

“This Dial Says Die”
“Either Learn or Go”
“Do Today’s Work Today”
“Learn to Value Your Time”
“The Time Thou Killest Will in Time Kill Thee”
“Opportunity has Locks in Front and is Bald Behind” (This odd one has been explained as alluding to a longer proverb – “Opportunity has hair in front, behind she is bald; if you seize her by the forelock, you may hold her, but, if suffered to escape, not Jupiter himself can catch her again.”) “Remove Not the Ancient Landmark which Thy Father Hath Set Up.”
“Look Upon Me. Though Silent, I Speak. For the Happy and the Sad, I Mark the House Alike. I Warn as I Move. I Steal Upon You. I Wait for None.”
“Begone About Your Business.”
“I mark time from morning ’til moonlight””


Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day is celebrated annually on the third Saturday of May and Armed Forces Week begins on the second Saturday of May and ends on the third Sunday of May. It was this past weekend. I think this is another holiday that has been forgotten or misunderstood by many Americans.

I don’t think many Americans could tell you the difference between Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, and Veterans Day. They may think first of Memorial Day as the start of summer. Memorial Day honors all military dead. Veteran’s Day honors all those living who served in the military. Armed Forces Day honors all who currently serve in the military.

I was in high school and college in the days of the Vietnam War and the military draft, and the armed forces were not spoken of very highly by most young people. War was not something anyone wanted and many of us questioned why we were in Vietnam. The wars we studied in history from WWII and earlier seemed somehow more justified than Vietnam and Korea.

But Armed Forces Day is celebrated worldwide. In some countries, it is a day to show military force, almost like a threat.

In the United States, it was first observed on May 20, 1950, and had been created under President Harry S. Truman who led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank military members for their patriotic service. It celebrates the five U.S. military branches – the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard.

The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated by parades, open houses, receptions and air shows. I saw no celebrations anywhere near me. The longest continuously running Armed Forces Day Parade in the U.S. is held in Chattanooga and this year marked its 74th parade.

Through the Eyes of a Child

“Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will.” – Baudelaire

Isaac Newton saw his world-changing discoveries as something he did when he was “like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

Yesterday, I spent the day with my two grandchildren, ages 3 years and 9 months. Those times are when I often come closest to recovering from my childhood moments of discovery and a different way of seeing the world. We use the word “wonderful” for many things that are not full of wonder – or perhaps, they are filled with wonder but we fail to see it. Think of looking up at the night sky, or at a wave forming and crashing or a plant blooming or making fruit, or a young bird testing its wings. Wonderful.

I came to these thoughts from our play time yesterday and noted them because of an article on The Marginalian (a website often filled with wonder). It was mostly about observing as done by John Steinbeck. He is an author that I read very intensely in my teen years, but have read much of late.

The book that was quoted is his non-fiction The Log from the Sea of Cortez which I had not read. This somewhat forgotten book of his (as compared to his Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and East of Eden) is about one of his marine biology expeditions in the Gulf of California, but in some ways, it is a book on how to observe and how to think.

Here is one excerpt:

As always when one is collecting, we were soon joined by a number of small boys. The very posture of search, the slow movement with the head down, seems to draw people. “What did you lose?” they ask.
“Then what do you search for?” And this is an embarrassing question. We search for something that will seem like truth to us; we search for understanding; we search for that principle which keys us deeply into the pattern of all life; we search for the relations of things, one to another, as this young man searches for a warm light in his wife’s eyes and that one for the hot warmth of fighting. These little boys and young men on the tide flat do not even know that they search for such things too. We say to them, “We are looking for curios, for certain small animals.”
Then the little boys help us to search.

Though it seems like the boys and the adults were searching for different things, they really were searching for the same things.

My title makes me think of the dreamy Moody Blues song, “Eyes of a Child.” It is on the album To Our Children’s Children’s Children. Those will be my great-grandchildren who I don’t expect to ever meet. That concept album is mostly about the world we leave the generations after us. I also think it is about how we see the world and the idea of observing it through those childlike eyes that see wonder and are full of curiosity about the what, why, and how of so many things.

I do sometimes think that my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and beyond might one day read things I have written – on paper or online. Some of those words are about me, our family, their grandfather, their father, and even about them in my imaginings. Although many of those words are through the eyes of an adult and now an old man, I hope some of them came from the place that I once was as a child too.

“We dismiss wonder commonly with childhood. Much later, when life’s pace has slackened, wonder may return. The mind then may find so much inviting wonder the whole world becomes wonderful. Then one thing is scarcely more wonderful than is another. But, greatest wonder, our wonder soon lapses. A rainbow every morning who would pause to look at? The wonderful which comes often or is plentifully about us is soon taken for granted. That is practical enough. It allows us to get on with life. But it may stultify if it cannot on occasion be thrown off. To recapture now and then childhood’s wonder, is to secure a driving force for occasional grown-up thoughts.”Charles Scott Sherrington

The Full Moon Is There Even When It Is Not Here

The May 2023 Full Moon made its appearance on May 5. It did not appear to me in Paradelle because it was cloudy and rainy. But the Flower Moon was there and this weekend will be filled with flowers as the temperatures finally climb into the seventies. That was the second Full Moon of this spring and the second after the spring equinox. There was also a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse at the same time as the Full Moon. (Technically 9 minutes before its peak.)

The May Full Moon is in Scorpio. The predictions don’t sound very good for those who believe in such things. One source says, “Scorpio rules the eighth house of sex, death, and transformation as well as the reproductive and excretory systems and the sacral chakra. The focus here is on what is buried, and themes of rot and renewal, endings and beginnings…Scorpio is the patron sign of obsession (sorry, not sorry) and this eclipse points to patterns, compulsions, and behaviors that we repeat but reap no reward from. This eclipse wants you to cut that s–t out. Scorpio is about what we keep hidden from others so these obsessions, underlying energies, personal pains, and anxious attachments are for us to identify, expose, politely thank, and heartily cast out.”

As with all astronomical and celestial events, happenings in nature, and many very human events around us, things go unobserved. Our view of the stars and planets shirt. The sun rises in a slightly different place each morning. Trees, leaf out, bloom, and produce fruits and seeds during spring whether or not you take notes. People you don’t know die. People you know get depressed but for whatever reason you never noticed. People, nature and the universe doesn’t always announce themselves to us. You have to be observant.