Volume 74, Number 13 | July 28 - August 03 , 2004

Notebook


Once in a Blue Moon: Maybe I’ll go lunar instead of linear

By Wickham Boyle

Once upon a time, a month was a month, determined by the arrival of each new moon. Many cultures, like the Jewish, Islamic and Chinese traditions, still keep a calendar based on the lunar schedule. But according to the solar calendar, a newer way to mark time, the month is an arbitrary, arithmetic division of the year. And so the months, as they have become delineated, have lost their intrinsic correlation with the real lunar phases. Calendar months of 30 and 31 days are longer than the actual period between one full moon and the next, which is 29.53 days. Consequently, the surplus hours and days of each month, each year, accumulate until eventually there is an “extra” full moon in one month. We call this extra full moon a BLUE MOON.

This happens in July 2004. July 2 was the Full Buck Moon and the Blue Moon is July 30, the Full Thunder Moon, in the naming tradition of the Iroquois. The cycle of the month with two full moons, the year with 13 moons, is 2.72 years, making it a rare and special, if not unusual or unexpected, occasion. So when we say that we visit someone rarely, we sometimes say, or at least our parents and grandparents said, “I do that once in a blue moon.”

How many of us actually know what that means? Now that all of our readers are wise and hip to the lunar vocabulary, I wanted to think about what does it mean to have such a rare day? How do we celebrate an unusual occurrence, and how do we acknowledge how auspicious this celestial lagniappe is?

I want to take this occasion to stare at the moon with my husband as we take our first prolonged, alone vacation in the hills of Umbria. We have run away before, but now that our kids are playing tennis like demons or working their own Italian summer jobs, we are free to have a once-in-a-blue-moon vacation. We are going to attempt to hold hands and walk, not talking about how to pay bills or juggle responsibilities, but rather be really, vitally present for each other.

I keep saying to my friends that nearly every fiber of my being is fighting this Blue Moon vacation because I feel it is the wrong time: I have too much work; a magazine for which I write just folded, so I have too little work as well. I am worried about…well, here you are free to insert any number of issues from my aging father, to school for kids, to the cats. O.K., silly. But so many of us fight being alone with our spouses, to rediscover why we loved them or even to learn who they have become while as partners we busied ourselves with raising children, fighting the good fight for democracy, volunteering for school or fighting the tide of gravity by taking our soon-to-be-saggy selves to the gym or out for a bike ride.

I see the Blue Moon as an opportunity to celebrate the rare in my life. What is rare for me now is realization, real-true, lying-on-my-back-and-letting-the-clouds-float-by detachment. Oh, I can go to the beach, but I need a pad of paper right next to me so when, or if, the good thought, or undone task pops into my brain, I can immediately write it down and not lose it — to fight fiercely not to lose the moment or the inspiration.

What is rare is deep appreciation for all the blessings I have: my health, my family, my energy and my enthusiasm. I lose that too often when I fall into my miasma of WOE IS ME. I forget the inner core of riches. I know we all do. So, time without agenda, phones and to-do lists gives me the window of opportunity to appreciate.

This is what I do once in a Blue Moon. I need to do it more, but when the heavens give me a cue, I try to take it.

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