The Warm Moon, Our Sixth Moon…The Hidden Moon

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I waited until after midnight to go out of our r-pod to look up at the sixth full moon of our trip.  My weather app was correct, there would be a thick cloud cover tonight.

And there was.  For me, this was a first.  Since October, we had been favored by a clear sky.  The western sky is usually cloudless.

Last nights moon is known as the “warm moon.”  We just welcomed spring a few days ago.  There is warmth in the air but, for me, a certain sadness covers my thoughts.  Soon, we will be unpacking the RV and most likely prepare it for sale.  Our life, our days that have been unfolding with a new landscape with each new highway and each new town will now be as predictable as…the rising of the next full moon.

That will be on April 22.

We’ll be home and I will be watching, waiting for the Pink Moon.

Where will you be?

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The Snow Moon Over The Mojave

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Last night the Snow Moon rose over the Coxcomb Mountains of the Mojave Desert.  It’s the fifth full moon we have watched since our journey began

There will be one more to witness before we are home again.  Will we see the Warm Moon from where ever we will be in the third week of March?  I’ll bet a finback that it will be a cloudy night.

That’s the reason I miss so many celestial events like meteor showers, aurora and eclipses back home in the Adirondacks.  Cloud cover is a way of life when you enter the states east of the Mississippi River.

Out here, in the dry clear air of the Southwest, the skies have been spectacular.

But, my pleasure is mixed.  I feel enchanted and mystical when the full moon is lighting my night-time environment in the soft glow of paleness…like a lingering campfire or night-light that is bright enough, just enough, to illuminate a book or allow me to walk without a headlamp.

This post is celebrating the full moon, but I should be writing one, in two weeks, that speaks to the awesome and dazzling population of stars and planets that a desert sky displays on nights that are moonless.

Last night, I could barely make out the belt of Orion.  I could hardly see the Milky Way…but I could read a poem.

Last night, the giant globe passed by Jupiter (which sits near one of the feet of Leo) and rose high and proud.  The goddess Luna, was strutting her stuff and her act could make you halt in your steps and look up…look up and think sublime ideas.  Think romantic thoughts, poetic phrases and sad memories.  Sit on a rock and look up, look around you, look inside your mind and soul.  Remember someone you loved once…or still do.

I have had many conversations with Luna, the Roman goddess of the moon.  Sometimes she sends her Greek sister, Selene to sit with me and talk of melancholy things.  I’ve been reminded that I’ve been alive for approximately  825 full moons in my life…and I still don’t fully understand how the human heart works and why it’s so fragile and why the moon plays such an important role in our thoughts and beliefs.

I think I need another several hundred lunar cycles to fill in the gaps of my own nature.

“Drink in the full moon as though you might die of thirst.”

–Sanoben Khan

 

 

 

 

My Moonlight Sonata

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“Moonlight becomes you, it goes with your hair.

You certainly know the right thing to wear…”

–Popular song

For many years, the Full Moon has fascinated me.  In the North Country, in the death-like silence of the mid-winter, and the snow on the ground is seven inches deep, and bending the branches of the cedar trees, you can read a poem, by Rilke or Yeats or Frost, using only the light of the moon to illuminate the page.

If you had a wall-map of Texas tacked to the paneling of your family room (and who doesn’t?), and you stood outside of the sliding doors (for distance), and you shot an arrow, aiming for the center of the state…you would hit the approximate spot where I’m sitting now.  That is, of course, if you considered the drop of the arrow due to gravity.  I’m not in the dead middle of the state, but I’m close.

We spent Thursday night in Junction, hard by the Little Llano River.  Tonight we are in a deserted RV park in Ozona, hard by nowhere.

I was out walking through an older section of the town cemetery as the sun slowly sank toward the western bluffs that ring this little town.  It was getting late and I needed to get back to the Rpod.  But, before I reached the car, another object in the sky caught my eyes.  It was the rising moon, waxing toward the Full phase. It will be a Full Moon on Saturday night, January 23; our fourth Full moon since we began our road journey.

I wondered about the Native Americans, the people who populated this valley long before white men with whiskers and whiskey came through.  I thought about how they died and returned to the elements.  And then, watched from the shadows as their children and their children’s children stood and watched this brushy, arid, and beautiful place give way to ranches and cattle drives.

I also wondered how these First People marked the passage of time. We have the modern calendar artificially divided into minutes, seconds, days, weeks, months and years…according to what some king or some Pope decided was convenient.

But, I wondered if our images of smoke signals were rooted in reality.  I learned that the use of smoke is an ancient tradition here in the Americas and not merely an invention of Hollywood.

Drums were often used to convey messages across long distances. But, this was information. This was not specific to the passage of time.
Sitting Bull probably never said: “I’ll meet up with you in twenty minutes at the other side of the mesa…”

No, it seems much more likely that they used the passage of seasons and the phases of the moon to convey time.
“Oh yes, my son, this took place many moons ago…”
“I will meet you near the bend of the creek in two moons…”

It makes perfect sense. The moon is as predictable as the rising of the sun. And, it’s conveniently segmented into twenty-eight days cycles (oddly, the same time frame as a woman’s monthly cycle).

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So, tomorrow, night, in Pecos, Texas (any better name than that to invoke the west?) we will watch the Full Moon rise for the fourth time since we left New York State.

Our first was on October 27, in Brunswick, GA. It was a Blood Moon (or, more commonly, a Hunter’s Moon). I remember it was a warm night in Georgia. Halloween was approaching. It all seemed right.
Our second was on November 25, in Fort Myers, FL. I remember the overly warm night as I struggled to get the perfect photo of the moon through the palm trees. This was the Beaver Moon. 

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Our third was on December 25, again in Fort Myers.  It was a strange experience watching the moon rise, while standing against the edge of the swimming pool at our RV resort while Christmas carols drifted through the air from someone’s CD player.

So, like the persistent tide of the oceans, another Full Moon will rise tomorrow at sunset.  It will be the Wolf Moon. With any luck, the skies will be clear and the view will be profound and mystical, in its own way.  Such a common occurrence, yet so fresh and amazing.  Perhaps a coyote or even a wolf will howl at this moon…and echo through the canyon lands and mesas of western Texas.

Where the February, the Snow Moon find us?  Somewhere in the deserts of Arizona or the Mojave of Southern California, perhaps.  It may rise over the mythic town that will provide the promised cure for my troubled body and distressed mind.  The town that I’ve promised to tell you about…when I finally find it.

I’ll do my best to frame the perfect photo against a Sarguaro cactus.

If you’re up to it and the sky above your head is clear, step outside after the moon rises…and join me.  I’ll be in West Texas looking at the same dark mara and the same bright cratered features.  Let’s then wish each other a good night.

April 22, we will be seeing the Pink Moon from either Rainbow Lake, if the weather cooperates, or maybe we will remain for a few days in New York City and watch it rise, bright, dazzling and so urbane, over Queens.

 

Walking Charleston In The Light And Dark / A Few Tales To Tell

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Midnight in the Laundry Room.

I’m writing this in a laundry room.  Four washing machines are on my right and four dryers to my left.  I’m here because the promised WiFi signal is very weak in the R-pod.

Here the signal really smokes.

Yes, it’s midnight in the laundry room, a spooky place where a sock can vanish before your eyes.

The fluorescent lights bring out all the blemishes of the white formica table top.  Above my head is a full moon.  I can’t see it because the remnants of a major storm passed through Georgia today.  The sky was left overcast, but, the weather is slowly moving eastward, out to the Great Atlantic Ocean.  If I step outside right now, I may see a brightness that reveals the moon’s location.

This post is about Charleston but I’m not even in that city anymore.  The day before yesterday (its past midnight now) is when we stayed just outside Charleston, SC.  Today, we’re in Brunswick, home to the fabled Golden Islands.

But, let’s go back to Monday.  It seems like I’m a day or two behind in my posts.  So, if your curious about Brunswick, wait a day or so.  For two tired travelers, we packed quite a lot into a single day in that most interesting and beautiful city.

We spent the daylight hours seeing the sights that all the tourists come here to see.  However, this city has two separate personalities.  There are the magnificent homes, with the flowered gardens, ivy and palm trees.  At night, there is the melancholic Spanish moss, greenish-gray and drooping from the Live Oaks.  We strolled under the overcast sky during the day and we spent the evening, the dark time, lurking around haunted buildings and spine-chilling churchyards.  You will have to pony up $20.00 a person for one of the four or five Ghost Tours.

Daylight Walks

The main thoroughfare through town is Meeting Street.  It’s a restaurant-lined avenue that acts like a reference to walkers and shoppers and diners.  We decided to take it easy on ourselves and take a 90 minute Grey Line tour.  My neck is sore from trying to see the tops of the houses.  I felt like Linda Blair trying to keep up with what the driver/guide was telling us.  (He’s a former teacher, so that explains a lot.)  The buildings are some of the most beautiful and interesting I’ve ever seen.  Pastel colors are common choices.  The heat and humidity of the summer days forced the designers to come up with inventive ways to maximize the sea breezes.  The great porches wrap 3/4 of the way around a building.  The porches are large enough to earn the title ‘piazza’ style.

That’s where you would find me, if were a wealthy planter, sitting in a wicker chair and sipping a mint julep on lazy afternoons.

Here is an example of one such house.  I can’t say it’s typical, the styles are highly variable:

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I walked the streets.  I turned corners and peaked into secret gardens.  I stopped to smell the flowers.  I rested on park benches and bought post cards.

And, I looked down at just the right time to notice something interesting.  We’re outside a locksmith shop.  The owner, in a raging fit of creativity, had placed dozens of keys in the wet cement when the sidewalk was being poured.  An easy to miss, but interesting approach to advertising.

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We continued our stroll along Meeting Street, or was it King Street?  As we approached a fire station, I was amused by the statue of the Dalmatian that appeared to be sleeping on the sidewalk.  I hesitated.  I was curious if they had one of those brass poles that you see the fireman slide down (in the cartoons and movies).  I went in and asked a fireman if they had one.  This led to a tour of what he said was the oldest continuously operating fire house in the U.S.  He took us up to a building in the rear and there were three antique fire engines.  One was of special interest.  The story goes that the company that made those particular trucks was once on the verge of bankruptcy.  Along comes The Three Stooges.  They filmed a skit on one of those trucks that was very similar to the one we were looking upon.  After the film came out, the company was besieged by fire companies all across America.  They couldn’t make them fast enough.

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[A true classic isn’t it?]

He also showed us a very interesting display in one of the side rooms.  There, on the wall, was a typical red ‘fire-box’ that would be found along any city street.  He flipped the switch to demonstrate.  The signal would come into the fire station and trigger a teletype machine which would punch out a code.  The code was then referenced to a chart which gave the street where the fire was burning happily away.

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The daylight was fading.  We had dinner in the one restaurant that had the widest reputation.  My friend, the poet, Dara Reidyr, who grew up in South Carolina,  said we simply must have dinner at Hyman’s–and be sure to include grits and hushpuppies.  This we did.  It was a four-star establishment in my book.  Thanks, Dara!

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After sun sets

And, now for something completely different.  Night has fallen on the city.  We had booked a “Ghosts of Charleston” tour at 7:30 pm.  We met our guide by a circular fountain at Waterfront Park alongside the Cooper River.  Off we went to see the places that the TV “Ghost Busters” crew had claimed were “really hot” in terms of paranormal activity.

Our first stop is outside the Southend Brewery & Smokehouse on the corner of East Bay and Queen Streets.  Back in the day, the day of King Cotton and Indigo plantations, it was a three story cotton mill.  The rough work with the freshly picked white fluffy stuff was the first floor.  The finishing work was on the second floor.  One more flight up was a gentleman’s club where a planter or merchant could enjoy a whiskey and a cigar and talk the talk of men who made their fortunes from the labors of West African slaves.  Real gentleman, these.  One planter was celebrating a recent transaction of ‘selling’ his cotton to the merchant.  The goods were aboard a ship that had just set sail for England, where the quality of the South Carolina cotton was highly prized.  As this guy (forgot his name) gazed out of the window overlooking the harbor, he saw what he believed was the ship carrying his precious cargo, catch fire and then explode.

He stared in mute horror.  He was now a broken man, financially and otherwise.  He downed a few more fingers of whiskey before he realized he couldn’t go home and admit to his wife that all had been lost in the ship’s fire.  So, he did what every broken-spirited man with no future had done from time immemorial.  He fashioned a noose of twine and stepped off a chair into eternity.  The twine, of course, acted like razor wire and he essentially bled to death…his life’s blood dripping down three floors.  Clearly that wasn’t the end of the story.  You see, he still wanders the building to this day.  Was there anything good that came out of this tragedy?  Well, his widow got a very large check from the sale of the cotton and went from mourning black to bridal white in a very short time.

You may reasonably ask why she got the money.  Here’s the punch line to this sad tale:  The poor fellow had witnessed the wrong ship explode.  By the time he finished the last whiskey of his life, his cargo was already out of the harbor having departed on the outgoing tide.

Here is a dark and rather spooky cemetery.  Often, a kneeling woman is seen at the grave of her daughter who had died of a childhood disease in the 19th century.  I saw nothing.  Do you?

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A short distance away was the infamous “Dueling Alley”.  I can’t go into the fifteen stories of duels that took place there.  I’ll only mention that a prominent physician was killed in this alley sometime in the 19th century.  He used to walk the path and whistle on his way to work.

People have reported hearing the whistle and seeing a man in period clothes stroll the walkway.  Again, I saw nothing.

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It’s a long distance from the alley to this laundry room.  The alley was dark and forbidding.  The laundry room is blinding bright and a persistent noise is coming from behind the washers.

I can say one thing–it’s not a whistle.

[Next up: The Scary Halloween Blog.  Don’t say you weren’t warned!]

Passports I: East and West of the Sun

The great city of New York was behind us…and the sun was setting in the west.  We flew into the approaching darkness of night.

As I was planning this blog series, I was sitting on the American Airlines 767 trans-oceanic super jet propelled airplane.  My problem, right from the ‘get go’ (God, I hate that term), was to identify exactly when did this trip begin.  Did it begin in the discussions that Mariam and I had many months ago?  Leaving Rainbow Lake? Leaving our friend’s apartment in Manhattan? The ride to JFK?  The security lines?  Boarding the plane?  I just can’t put my finger on when the ‘go’ button got pushed.  Maybe, the true roots, the ultimate origins of this journey lay in the distant past…when I took a lucky turn on a New York street?  Or, when some poor, hungry Irishman decided he had been through enough and booked a passage to the United States sometime in the 1850’s?  One could get caught up in beginnings, because rarely does it start with the sound of a gun at a track meet.  The race doesn’t start then…it started when you decided to join the team, months earlier.  Or, even when….

But I digress.

I wanted to write that I composed this post on the plane, with the laptop snug on my lap and me, curled and snug on the seat during the all-night flight.  But that would be a professional quality lie.  In truth, I didn’t have any idea where my laptop was during the flight.  I knew it was somewhere under the seat in front of me…but so was a lot of other stuff.  So, I scribbled some notes (I’m using them right now) on a legal pad (yellow).  Don’t do this at home!  Every time I had to fold up the “table” I had to shove the pad into the net thingie in back of that seat in front of me.  Before long, bits of yellow paper were tearing and shredding away.  It’s a wonder I kept most of what I noted…so you’d better appreciate this blog because it wasn’t easy!

To paint the picture more clearly, I had about 4.45 inches of leg room for my own use.  Now, I’m not a tall guy like, say, Tommy Lee Jones and anyone who knows me, knows why I never played basketball in high school.  As I sat there trying to balance my few things, I felt confident that the American Airlines people had spoken to my childhood teachers (nuns) and confessors.  I was being punished here and now for the sins of my youth.  I was going through the tortures of Purgatory on a jet plane.

We were given a soda and bag of small pretzels as our pre-dinner snack.  I was unable to open the little plastic thing even though I pulled and tore at it over and over.  Finally, I gave it one more jerk and the bag popped open and several pretzels, the size of quarters, scattered onto the aisle.  I was belted in but the thought of numerous feet pulverizing the dried dough and making a mess on the carpet was too much for me.  I unhooked my seat belt and leaned over to pick two of them up.  My head came within four inches of a woman’s knee.  She looked down at me.  I think I noticed she was beginning to roll up her glossy Vogue magazine to whoop me on the head for attempting to look up her dress.  I got the pretzels just in time to avoid a smart whack on my already sore head.

I settled back in my ‘seat’ and tried to block out the pain and embarrassment by recalling the quiet moments back at Gate 14 when I was trying to charge my cell battery to the max.  I was sitting next to a group of girls who were off to a holiday in Paris.  One young woman who looked like she was about eight years old was leafing through her passport.  She had more visa stamps in her book that I had caps in my bottle cap collection.  At her age, if I walked across my hometown of Owego, NY I felt like I was crossing vast international boundaries.

Here, it could be fair to ask why I was so intent on charging my cell.  Well, in truth, I was also charging my iPad.  I had approximately 46 books downloaded to my Kindle app.  I wanted to travel light.  But, I feared that my battery would run down and I couldn’t play solitaire or listen to my iTunes.  So I packed some other reading material.  I had a book of French poetry, two pulp novels, two recent New Yorker magazines, a copy of the new Rolling Stone, a Vanity Fair (which had an article on Monica Lewinsky I wanted to read), three legal pads, four journals, a few sketching pads, a set of earphones the size of an eight-bunch of bananas and my sunglasses case.  Mariam asked why I was packing the sunglasses in my carry-on.

“It’s a night flight,” she said.

I just stared at her.  She didn’t understand.

I have to add here that I’ve had decades of backpacking experience under by belt.  I used to be so concerned about tiny bits of extra weight that I used to drill holes in my aluminum water cup to shave off a few ounces.

They brought some food for dinner.  It wasn’t so bad, considering the quality of airline food in general.  I decided that I would use the time to teach Mariam a few necessary French words…you know, so she wouldn’t have to rely on me for everything during our Paris stay.  I picked up the packet of butter and made her repeat “beurre”, I pointed at the water bottle and patiently asked her to repeat “l’eau”.  I stopped when I got to the Canada Dry Ginger Ale.  I decided not to overload her with too many words at once.

They dimmed the lights and I tried to play solitaire on my iPad but it fell from my hands twice before I realized I needed some music to sooth me to sleep.

I remember hearing only one song: “Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Wynette, before I drifted into a twenty-minute nap.

The captain announced that we were beginning our descent to the Aeroport De Charles De Gaulle.

The rising sun was in front of us and the towering cumulus clouds began to touch our wings.

These were French clouds and they were holding French rain…no doubt.

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The full moon above the Musee du Luxemborg.

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In the Garden du Luxemborg.