For those of us in the northern U.S. or Canada or at a similar latitude, the Big Dipper is always above the horizon. That means it is described as circumpolar. The mnemonic to remember for the Big Dipper is “spring up and fall down” to describe its appearance in our northern sky.

big_dipper_thru_seasons

The Big Dipper’s location at around midnight in each season. Image via burro.astr.cwru.edu

The Big and Little Dippers are asterisms – a prominent pattern or group of stars, typically having a popular name but smaller than a constellation. The Big Dipper ascends in the northeast on spring evenings, and it descends in the northwest on fall evenings.

“Follow the Drinking Gourd” is an American folk song that used “Drinking Gourd” as another name for the Big Dipper. The lyrics, according to legend, came from a conductor of the Underground Railroad, called Peg Leg Joe, as a way to guide some fugitive slaves.

The “drinkin’ gou’d” alludes to the hollowed out gourd used by slaves (and other rural Americans) as a water dipper. Used in the song, it was a code name for the Big Dipper which points to Polaris, the Pole Star, and to the North and freedom.

Polaris is a special star because it always stays in the same spot in the northern sky. The entire northern sky appears to turn around it because Polaris is located more or less above the northern axis (pole) of the Earth, and the wheeling of the stars across the dome of night is really due to Earth’s turning, after all. Polaris is part of the harder to find star pattern known as the Little Dipper.

As is often the case, the Moon looked full last night although it just became an official Full Moon as I hit the publish button on this post at 10:54 am ET. It will certainly look very full tonight.

This winter-into-spring moon is often called the Worm Moon, and last year I chose the name the name Earth Cracks Moon. The latter sounds rather ominous, but like the Worm Moon it refers to the heaving soil as we transition into spring with cold nights and warm days. That thawing ground will be marked in many areas with the earthworm casts that appear as they emerge. They are very attractive to another symbol of spring – worm-loving robins. The Full Crust Moon is another name that was used by some Indian tribes.

Although the wind in March is often quite blustery in some parts of the U.S., I optimistically chose the gentler Hopi name for this lunar occurrence of the Whispering Wind Moon. The Hopi tribe now primarily live on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. Their name for this Full Moon is fitting for the tribe because Hopi is a shortened form of their autonym, Hopituh Shi-nu-mu which means “The Peaceful People” or “Peaceful Little Ones.”

New World settlers called this last Full Moon of winter the Lenten Moon and also the Sap Moon. The latter name marks the time of tapping maple trees. The Lenten Moon marks the religious observance in the liturgical calendar that occurs during this lunar month. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday.

As Lent is seen as the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement, and self-denial, it fit well with the non-religious view of starting the year anew for farmers, ranchers and those looking to do “spring cleaning” and get a fresh start.

There are more Indian names for the Full Moons than the Colonists used because there were many tribes in many locations and their names for the Moon phases were based on their local observations of nature. Some northern tribes knew this as the Full Crow Moon, because the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter. Other names used by Native American Tribes: Rain (Diegueno). Bud Moon (Kiowa). Eagle Moon,Rain Moon (Cree). Green Moon (Pima). Deer Moon (Natchez). Moon of Winds (Celtic). Lizard Moon (San Juan). Death Moon (Neo-Pagan). Wind Strong Moon (Taos). Amaolikkervik Moon(Inuit). Little Frog Moon (Omaha). Little Spring Moon (Creek). Crane Moon (Potawatomi). Long Days moon (Wishram). Big Famine Moon (Choctaw). Moose Hunter Moon (Abenali). Whispering Wind Moon (Hopi). Little Spring Moon (Muscokee). Fish Moon (Colonial American). Snow Sore Eyes Moon(Dakota). Catching Fish Moon (Agonquin). Snow Crust Moon (Anishnaabe). Spring Moon (Passamaquoddy). Much Lateness Moon (Mohawk). Chaste Moon (Medieval English). Buffalo Calf moon (Arapaho, Sioux). Seed (Dark Janic), Plow Moon (Full Janic). Strawberry, Windy Moon, Lenten Moon (Cherokee). Worm Moon, Sugar Moon, Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Sap Moon. (Algonquin).

Not all calendars, including our traditional Western calendar, follow the phases of the Moon. In the solar Hebrew calendar, the months change with the new Moon, so the full Moons fall in the middle of the month. A solar year is about 11 days longer than twelve lunar months, so to keep holidays tied to their seasons, the Hebrew calendar occasionally repeats the month of Adar.

In the Islāmic calendar, the months start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon, a few days after the New Moon. Unlike the Hebrew calendar, the Islāmic calendar has no leap days or leap months to stay in sync with the seasons, and Islāmic holidays occur approximately 11 days earlier each solar year.

Wow, my title sounds like a Trumpian rant will follow, but this is really about recent research on how sites like Facebook, Twitter are spreading “fake news” along with you and your friends who like it and pass it along, and how it is affecting your memories.

This is about research on “collective recall.” If I didn’t know it earlier in life, I certainly know at this point in my life that memory is very fallible. I have posted a lot online about studies about memories – how we create them, how we recall them and how we lose them, but there is a new way that we may be warping our memories.

“Memories are shared among groups in novel ways through sites such as Facebook and Instagram, blurring the line between individual and collective memories,” said psychologist Daniel Schacter in Nature magazine. He studies memory at Harvard University and has found that “The development of Internet-based misinformation, such as recently well-publicized fake news sites, has the potential to distort individual and collective memories in disturbing ways.”

Collective memories are our history. We use the way we understand the past as a way to think about the future.

If our memory recalls fictitious terrorist attacks as real, it is easier to justify a travel ban on people who come from those terrorist nations. Social networks are being taken quite seriously as a kind of collective memory, even if it is a faulty memory.

Courtroom lawyers are known for introducing “evidence” or accusations to a jury that they know will be objected to and not recorded – but they get the information out there and into jurors brains.

It turns out that people don’t need very much prompting to conform to a majority recollection. Whether it is true or false isn’t really an issue.

I’m encouraged that research is also being done on ways of dislodging or even preventing them from forming in the first place. Scientists and social networks are now interacting. It might also be encouraging to know that not all collective memories pass into history. Some cognitive psychologists have proposed that more than cognitive and social processes determines whether an event survives the transition across generations. That additional aspect is the nature of the event itself. Depending on how much change occurs in a person’s daily life is crucial to personal and collective memories.

 

After some days away from Paradelle, television news and the Net, I have returned. Was it the cleansing that being offline might provide, as I had written about earlier? Yes, though even on a literal faraway island, news creeps in on you. Perhaps, I needed a deserted island. Still, my sleep changed for the better and my mind turned to things too often pushed aside (poetry, sketching, mindful and mindless meditation) for more “serious” matters.

I had some posts that were in the queue for this first weekend back in Paradelle, so they will go off into the universe of bits floating in a cloud. But the important thing for me this weekend is trying to keep that clear horizon clear?

The Dodge Foundation has run a program for many years of poetry as renewal that they call “Clearing the Spring, Tending the Fountain.” The title comes from a short poem by Robert Frost.

The Pasture 

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.

I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.

Though I don’t have a literal pasture spring to clean out for the new season, I did clear away some leaves from the garden yesterday on a warm, sunny, breezy day here in Paradelle. Today it is snowing. And next week even more snow predicted.

After you clear away what is blocking you, how do you keep the path clear?

Frost used that poem as the introduction to his 1915 collection, North of Boston. (The book is in the public domain now and you can read the poems online.) I think of the poem as a statement of intent. Frost wants these poems to move away the leaves that might block a reader’s perception. As the water clears, you can move further into the collection. Like the little calf that is also being cleaned by its mother, we can totter ahead.

In this time before spring when the weather reminds us of both the recent past and the coming days too, it is a good time to think about many kinds of rebirth and renewal. It’s a better time for new resolutions for the year than January first.

I am going to try to tend the fountain and keep what has cleared for me open and moving ahead. You come too.

 

Just a brief note: I’ll be dropping off the grid, slipping away to some wilderness or wildness, escaping to an island in these early morning hours, taking my own advice about resetting my internal clock. All the signs were here.

Maybe I’ll be back online in a week or two. Or maybe I’ll go native. The universe will have to give me  a sign.

You take care of yourselves and the Net for a while.

off island

 

monk-road-pixa

I have often told my good friend Scott that we are both “seekers.” It seems we have spent most of our lives searching for… well, that’s a hard sentence to complete. In search of Truth? Enlightenment? God?

“Spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) is a phrase that gained popular usage as a way of saying that you self-identify as someone that has a hard time believing that an organized religion is the only or most valuable means of furthering your spiritual growth.

Though I was raised a Catholic, I parted ways in my late teens and explored a number of other religious seeker from Quakers to Buddhists and finally decided that there was no group that filled my needs or answered my questions.

SBNR became very “New Age” and got mixed in with “mind-body-spirit” and holistic movements such as tai chi, reiki, and yoga. They became groups to join and pay for memberships.

I was convinced that spirituality had more to do with the interior life of the individual than that of a group.

There actually was a group known as Seekers (also known as Legatine-Arians). They were an English Protestant dissenting group that emerged around the 1620s, inspired by three Legate brothers.

These Seekers considered all organized churches of their day corrupt. They were patient – waiting for God’s revelation. They were not an organized religious group in any way that would be recognized today. They were not a religious cult. It was an informal structure and localized. To be a “member” didn’t mean you couldn’t belong to another sect. Many Seekers were also Quakers.

But to me that doesn’t sound like “seeking.” To be a seeker, one needs to actively be in search of something, not waiting for revelation to come to you.

Seeking is not limited to religion and spirituality. It is a quest to know more about everything.

If you do an Internet search on just “in search of” books, you will find a very wide ranges of things being sought. From those in search of memory through the science of the mind, to those in search of Schrödinger’s cat in quantum physics.

I think I was a seeker from my earliest teen years. I definitely searched for answers to many questions in books. In novels that weren’t always considered to be about seeking (Siddhartha, Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, Slaughterhouse-Five), I found Seekers. I found books that were about seeking too – The Seven Storey Mountain, Dark Night of the SoulThe Wisdom of the Sufis, Carlos Castenada’s books and others.

Yesterday, I wrote about some other books that have inspired seekers and there are lots of other books that have been spiritually influential to people.

College exposed me to many of these books, but it also brought me to other people who seemed to be on a similar path. It was a time of experimentation. We followed paths that seemed to hold new possibilities, including sexuality and drugs.

After college and as a young husband, I felt like there were other unexplored worlds contained in this one we believe we live in that I needed to first find and then examine.

During this time, In Search of… , a weekly television series appeared. It was devoted to mysterious phenomena. There had been three one-hour TV documentaries (In Search of Ancient Astronauts, In Search of Ancient Mysteries and The Outer Space Connection) that were narrated by by Rod Serling in the voice that had intrigued and frightened me in my younger years from his Twilight Zone.

Certainly, a lot of the 146 episodes of the series (hosted by Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy) were fringe science at best. Those ancient astronauts came from the book Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Däniken and though I never believed his theory, it certainly made me consider us being alone, or not alone, in the universe. It led me to seek out more about the Mayan culture and other mysteries.

The seeking certainly wasn’t restricted to religion or spirituality. The TV program shifted from UFOs, and the Loch Ness Monster to cults, the disappearances of cities (Atlantis, Roanoke Colony), ships (Mary Celeste) and people (Amelia Earhart, D. B. Cooper). Some of this was quite real, more like history than the paranormal.

I remember the show’s opening disclaimer and was able to find it online. It is pretty close to a seeker creed.

“This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The producer’s purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine.”

In college, I had a girlfriend who was deep into the occult and “strange worlds.” Many of the topics she exposed me to, I found out more about in the years to come. I found several books by Arthur C. Clarke that were not his sci-fi novels, but non-fiction collections about mysterious worlds and strange powers. I suspect that Clarke didn’t write the books, but was attached to the project.  only the foreword but

When I started reading aloud the first Harry Potter book to my son, I was amused when we came upon a Seeker. It is a position in the wizarding sport of Quidditch. The one Seeker on a team has to find the Golden Snitch, and until the Seeker catches it, a game does not end. What is your Golden Snitch?

There is a song “The Seeker” written by Peter Townshend and performed by The Who. I hope that as a Seeker all my searching low and high won’t end as the song does – that I won’t get to get what I’m after till the day I die.

I’ve looked under chairs
I’ve looked under tables
I’ve tried to find the key
To fifty million fables

I asked Bobby Dylan
I asked The Beatles
I asked Timothy Leary
But he couldn’t help me either

They call me The Seeker
I’ve been searching low and high
I won’t get to get what I’m after
Till the day I die

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