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Friday, September 20, 2013

Shine on, Harvest Moon

I was awakened last night by a bright light streaming in through the bedroom window. Slightly in a daze, I crawled out of bed and stumbled into the dining room, and then out onto the porch.

The whole yard was bathed in the sterling clear light of the Harvest Moon, that full moon that occurs around this time of year. The Harvest Moon is famous for being so large in the early evening sky, but I had missed that. Instead, I was seeing a moon high in the 2 am sky, shining so brightly I could have gotten out and mowed the grass if I had wanted to. The trees were casting shadows as clear as any noonday sun ever created.

This morning I looked up the writings of my old friend, Eric Sloane, in his classic "The Seasons of America Past".
"Poets call autumn the melancholy season, but to American farmers it was the season of fulfillment and a time of rejoicing. Why else would they have chosen September as the Season of Fairs? The only melancholy of September is experienced by school children, who realize better than anyone else that vacation is done...
The most typically American of all seasons might well be Indian summer...Legend has it that Indian Summer was so named because of the atmospheric haze present at that time, and that the pioneers associated it Indian war fires. Actually this was the season that the Red Man went into the interior to prepare for winter hunting, and the oft-mentioned 'Indian fires' were only those used for scaring game into traps and groups of hunters.
This season of haze, the last sweet smile of the declining year, still reigns from coast to coast as the most American of American seasons; its magnitude has far superseded its historical interest through Indian lore. This was the farmer's brief season for a vacation from work, for relaxation by hunting, and fishing, and exploring. And what better time than this exists, when nature and weather combine to put on the greatest show in America?
...
September is the season of the Harvest Moon. The full moon that falls nearest the autumnal equinox (on or about September 21) is in that part of its orbit where it makes the smallest angle with the horizon. For several nights in succession the moon rises at nearly the same hour, giving an unusual proportion of moonlit nights. Since it rises slower, the "huge" effect of the moon is exaggerated, and the harvest moon is therefore supposed to appear larger ad redder than the moon of any other season. Many a harvest has been worked in the open field only by the light of a full September moon."
So there, I had experienced what many a farmer had counted on in earlier, simpler days...the inspiring light of the Harvest Moon. The same moon that inspired possibly one of the sweetest and best songs of the twentieth century...




I love the fall...time to get after the wood.

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