On my way home Saturday night from one of the most enchanting wedding ceremonies I have ever had the honor of attending, I caught a glimpse of the moon. It looked enormous, larger than usual. Odd, I thought, must be the wine. Every few blocks or so, it would reappear from behind a tall building, plump and yellow, overripe, sitting just off the edge of the skyline. It was a magnificent sight, and once I stopped worrying about hallucinations, I simply enjoyed it. (The photo above was lifted off the web, and I can't find a credit, but I liked the cactii standing in as skyscrapers...)I learned the next day that I had been lucky enough to witness an unusual "super-moon" that, thanks to a fluke in orbital mechanics, was 7 % closer than at its most distant point. I can only imagine that it is a propitious sign for the young couple.

And a good omen for the book I reviewed in the New York Times, which coincidentally made its appearance with the super-moon, called Nocturne by James Attlee. The book is a ramble around the world in search of moonlight, and a passionate plea that we learn to turn off the night lights. This isn't just for city dwellers. All all of us in suburbs and even rural areas are burning too brightly: some of the night lights on houses in my rural Rhode Island town are bright enough to land a helicopter. Neighbors several acres away can no longer see the stars. Light pollution has become such a problem that we now have an International Dark Sky Organization to fight for our right to enjoy the night. We have forgotten what we are missing.

One of the most poignant comments in a long thread on the Japan nuclear crisis was from a person who said that because of the cascade of power outages across the country, she was able to see the night sky for the first time. Never had she known that stars glittered so. She took it as a gift, but it made her sad that it had to come at the expense of so many lives. We do not need a calamity to find our way back to the dark magic of night.


Ashling said...

What an astonishing thing to recognize the gift of beauty in the night sky amidst such deep tragedy.

Trudy G. said...

Light pollution, never thought of it that way before. My husband complains that the street lights stop a block before our house but I'm glad they do.

I grew up in Idaho and as a teenager I loved the night sky. Sometimes (when it's not too cloudy in Seattle) I can go outside and stand on my sidewalk and see the stars. What a treat. I love our summer vacations where the stars seem to meet the lake.

KAT said...

ooooooh nice
wow that moon is big
can I add a link to your blog on my blog page
KAT Griffin bird and nature lover

c said...

I love it - you have a moon theme going ... one absolutely horrid and one plain magnificent!

Stars ... nothing like being by the shore in an underpopulated area. As a kid, we spent summers at the beach and I clearly remember ending with severe "neck pain" with all that looking up and around at the night sky. I'll take that real pain in the neck any day (or any night, as is the case).

G W Strand, Minneapolis said...

Ms. Browning:
I regularly enjoy your blog, your observer's eye, and your writing voice. But . . . may I point to a factual error in today's item?

The blog's 3.21.2011 notation that the "super-moon ... appeared 18 times larger than usual" is -- far from correct.

The recent coincident of the moon's Perigee (the point at which the Moon is closest in its orbit to the Earth), and Syzygy (a full or new moon, when the Earth, the Moon and the Sun are aligned); meant the observed moon was actually -- a mere 12% larger than a typical full moon. Noticeable, perhaps; to those with a sharp eye, and an only lightly light-polluted dark sky.

Physical measurements notwithstanding; the moon has always been associated with the undervalued powers of emotion, imagination, and the subconscious. Thus, we all can still (accurately) -- reflect our wishes on the special occasion and a propitious sign for the young couple.

With my "full" regards.

Unknown said...

I am lucky to have found an entire street in suburban Seattle (Bellevue) with one acre lots and NO street lights so stars and the moon are frequent visitors. Last night we were blessed with no clouds so we all went out and howled as the moon rose.

A long time ago I quit my job in NYC when I turned 30 and traveled west photographing. Frustrated by the panoramas I was prepared to head back east. The last night in Yosemite I camped with friends in the high country and lay awake staring at the outrageously bright stars. Years earlier my NC grandfather took me fox hunting at night and that night in Yosemite brought those memories all back. I knew I would never see the stars quite that way back east again. The next morning the landscape fit and there was no going back.

Blame it on the night sky. With absolutely no regrets.

Warren said...

Not sure what happened but I wrote the post above, not my daughter. So much for sharing computers!

Cristina said...

yes!! it was expected to appear a lot bigger and closer than usual, on that very night!
I had read something on the web by sheer chance, therefore I was looking forward to it - no hallucinations to blame - and its appearance was indeed a spectacular one (minus the cactii...!).
two days ago it was the "silver moon", yesterday "moonshine": funny, isn't it?

Tessa said...

i've been reading (or just watching) your blog for 1 year and only now i read the part you say you lost your job and found happiness

Its so crazy that something like writing a blog can do so much for oneself. But it is so true!

Blogging has made me much more focused on litle everyday experiences- things that can bring a sense of happiness and wonder.

Love your blog, thank you

tour in gran canaria said...

I read your article. Its nice blog. You shared best photo of moonshine. Its perfect picture of nature. You have done nice work.

Dominique said...

YOWZERS, GW STRAND, you are so right! My dad also kindly pointed this out. I picked up that line on the net, didn't really consider it, and there you go: big mistake. I've fixed it, I think. Let me know....and thanks for your Full Regards....

Amazing that there is a neighborhood in Seattle with no light pollution-but it seems like Seattle is full of greatness, from what I read.

Don't you just love the word syzygy...great metaphorical potential, to say nothing of the scrabble potential...thanks all....