Today is Monday, June 24, 2013.
Last night’s supermoon was… well, super. I drove to the highest hill in the little town of Brandon, where the road was, fortunately, facing east. The sky was a little darker than in the picture, and the moon was much more orange. It was just fabulous, and when I went outside a couple of hours later, it was big, white, and so bright! I’m glad I live in a small town where it is possible to view the heavens without a lot of electric lights to mar the natural beauty of the night sky.
I found out a little more about the supermoon. This year’s supermoon is only 356,991 kilometers (221,824 miles) away from Earth. But next year’s moon will be about 5 kilometers closer. That will happen on August 10, 2014. The full moon will come even closer to Earth on September 28, 2015 (356,877 kilometers) and closer yet on November 14, 2016 (356,509 kilometers). November 2016 will feature the closest full moon until November 25, 2034. The closest full moon of the 21st century will fall on December 6, 2052 (356,425 km).
I have always been particularly enchanted by the full moon – any full moon, but especially the ones that are the brightest. While I was in Japan, I learned to celebrate Moon Viewing, which is held on the night of the full moon in September, which is usually the among brightest full moons. (Not this year, though.) It is also called the Harvest Moon here in the United States. On the night of Moon Viewing day, Japanese people spread blue plastic tarps on the ground and proceed to get fairly drunk while supposedly writing poems to the moon. They can’t be too good, since the writers are pretty drunk and anyway, I’ve never seen any published. The Japanese like to eat traditional foods at this time, and the more religious of them offer sake (rice wine) and sweet potatoes to the moon. The older folks do drink sake while moon-viewing, but the younger set seems to prefer beer. While Americans follow a Western superstition of seeing the Man in the Moon, Japanese see a rabbit in the full moon. Chinese, Koreans and Aztecs also see a rabbit. The boxlike thing next to the rabbit is a cooking pot or a mochi mortar. (Mochi is sticky rice that is made by pounding cooked rice in a mortar (special bowl) using a wooden pestle. The rice is pounded into a paste, then shaped and allowed to “dry” before eating. It eventually gets hard, and has to be heated up to be eaten. It is eaten at the new year in soup and young people like to wrap a piece of grilled mochi in strips of dried, pressed seaweed with a piece of cheese melted on top. This is surprisingly delicious.)
A lot of people have told me over the years that when they were away from home, they would look at the moon and be comforted that their loved ones could see the same moon, even if not at the very same time. I confess, I did this, too, and it was somewhat comforting. I wondered why I didn’t feel the same way about the sun, but then, homesickness tends to strike at night or during bad weather. I might have felt the same way about the stars, but in Tokyo, you just can’t see many stars because the city is so big.
Until August 10 next year, I will carry with me the memory of a the beautiful 2013 supermoon. 🙂