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Tonight is a Full Moon. With a Full Moon and also with a New Moon our only permanent natural satellite is on a line with the Earth and sun. When new, the moon is in the middle position along the line, and when full, Earth is in the middle. A Full Moon always comes about two weeks after the new phase.
I wonder if this alignment of the sun, Earth and moon is part of the appeal of a Full Moon. A lunar eclipse always happens at Full Moon as only then the Earth’s shadow, extending opposite the sun, can fall on the Moon’s face.
A Celtic name for the April Full Moon is the Growing Moon, referring to this time of plants returning to their growing seasons and humans turning to planting again.
No matter what the mixed weather of march may have brought to your area last month, at least some days of April will feel like true spring has arrived.
This month’s moon is sometimes called the Pink Moon, not for its color, but for the color of the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Of course, I am also seeing plenty of yellow forsythia, daffodils and crocuses in neighborhood gardens.
Names like the Full Sprouting Grass Moon and Seed Moon are also growing reminders.
The Egg Moon name reminds us of new life from the eggs of birds and fowl and echoes the egg themes of Easter and Eostre.
The name Fish Moon references this time when shad move upstream to spawn.
This Sunday starts the annual Lyrid meteor shower which I think of as an April spring event. It is active each year from about April 16 to 25. In 2017, the peak of this shower is expected to occur the morning of April 22.
Tonight we’ll see the April Full Moon and this is an occurrence that is sometimes called a micro-moon or mini-moon. It probably won’t look any smaller to you, but this smallest full moon of 2016 will be about 30,000 miles (50,000 km) farther away from Earth than the biggest Full Moon (AKA supermoon) of the year.
This comes less than one day after the moon reached lunar apogee, which is the point when the moon is at its farthest point in its monthly orbit. It is hardly a rare occurrence since every year has a closest full moon and a farthest full moon. These mini-moons return about one month and 18 days later with each passing year. That means that for 2017, the year’s smallest full moon will come on June 9.
This Full Moon in the Cherokee marking of the lunar months was called Kawohni, meaning “duck” as in “when the ducks return.” The Dakotah Sioux called this the Moon When Geese Return in Scattered Formation.
The Full Moon also will not look pinkish, but another name for this month’s moon is Full Pink Moon. That name comes from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. In Paradelle, these flowers (which I have always called Mountain Pinks) did bloom right on schedule.
You can also refer to this Full Moon by other American Indian names such as the Full Sprouting Grass Moon – or The Moon When Dandelions My Lawn – and among coastal tribes the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.
Some tribes called this the Egg Moon and that may sound more appropriate to a year when Easter occurs during April, but the name comes from the appearance of eggs naturally appearing in nests rather than an Easter egg hunt.
A Medieval name for tonight’s Full Moon was the Seed Moon which is fitting if you’re in a climate where it’s early enough to sow seeds outdoors. For me, the sowing is still indoors in flats.
The Roman festival of Cerealia this month celebrated the goddess associated with grains. This was the time to plant that important crop and the goddess Ceres is where we get our word “cereal.”
This might also be the time of the last frost for your region. Some people use blooms in nature as a key to when to plant: when dandelions bloom, plant potatoes; plant peas on Saint Patrick’s Day if the soil isn’t muddy, otherwise wait for the forsythia to bloom.
Similarly, a Celtic name for this moon was the Growing Moon and in the Chinese moon sequence, this is the Peony Moon
The April Moon is also been called the Chaste Moon, Growing Moon, Hare Moon, Maiden Moon, Grass Moon, Rain Moon, Growing Moon, Wind Moon, Seed Moon, Budding Trees Moon and Green Grass Moon.
In his poem “The Waste Land,” T.S. Eliot said that “April is the cruelest month.”
Why? Because in its
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain”
it mixes new life and desire with things that have died and passed.
That’s not our usual approach to the spring season, but Eliot continues that:
“Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.”
The winter snows did actually keep the soil “warm” in that protective way that snow cover helps plants and gives the bulbs the rest needed to be renewed.
But April is a cruel month for other reasons.
This year we had the Boston Marathon bombing. I
n 2007, there was the April 16 Virginia Tech shooting.
April 20, 1999 was the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.
The bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 was on April 19, a date chosen by Timothy McVeigh because it was the anniversary of the bloody end of the FBI siege on a compound at Waco, Texas in 1993.
The Columbine tragedy was on Adolph Hitler’s birthday, thought to be symbolic by the young shooters. And the FBI wondered if the date of the Boston Marathon, April 15, was significant being that it was Patriots Day, a Massachusetts state holiday commemorating the opening battles of the American Revolutionary War. The Waco and Oklahoma City tragedies were on the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in the American Revolution.
“He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience.”
So, are the dates symbolic attempts to make a statement, or is there something about the month of April?
For extremists who believe that our federal government is as tyrannical as the British monarchy of our American Revolution, the date is symbolic of a war on a government by its own patriot people.
Of course, every month has its tragedies in modern and older times. But I have seen articles lately mentioning April as the month for not only the Revolutionary War’s start, but the American Civil War. Add to that the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.
But I have also read that April is no more violent statistically than other months. In fact, crime statistics go up in summer.
“A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron wrote a book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, in which she writes that “We live in difficult times. One senses a possibility they may get worse.” Her book is a Tibetan Buddhist view in how Buddhism helps cope with fear, despair, rage and the feeling that we are not in control of our lives.
The Buddhist view that despite any planning or efforts on our part, the only thing we can predict with certainty is change. While most of us rage against the night of all that, the Buddhist surrenders to the reality of impermanence. We can center and ground ourselves. We can discover our relationship to a higher power that controls our world, no matter what name we may give to that power.
“Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
-But who is that on the other side of you?”