keep up with happenings in space at www.spaceweather.com, where I find out about sunspots, near-Earth asteroids, the Aurora Borealis, and happenings with the planets, space debris, and all sorts of celestial out-of-sight events. Fans send in photos, including this one of the Corn Moon taken at Yellowstone National Park several nights ago.
Astronomy professor Jimmy Westlake of Colorado Mountain College recently took this shot of the Corn Moon. "The Moon is visible through the top of Old Faithful's steamy plume," he pointed out on the spaceweather.com site. "I took the picture using a Fuji Finepix S2 digital camera set at ISO 800 for a 4-second exposure."
The Corn Moon’s rising on Sept. 4 and my 27-month-old granddaughter’s excitement in seeing it took me back to last March and its Worm Moon.
In February in Alabama, yellow daffodils begin breaking through the cold ground. The camellias venture to open. Cardinals usher in the morning with chirps and whistles. Robins return in large groups and stand on the lawn. The sun stays in the sky a bit later. And, last February, my then-20-month-old granddaughter, Joanna Leigh, discovered the moon.
Now the sun’s presence in our hemisphere is waning as we approach the Autumnal Equinox this month. The leaves are beginning to thin; we’ll be able to see this year’s remaining moons more easily.
Late February and early March in Alabama tease, offering a string of days at 70-plus degrees with sunshine before it plunges to cold briefly, then starts climbing again. On March 2 this year, it snowed after dropping 6.377 inches of rain on our yard. We watched the early spring moon every clear evening from its crescent to its full Worm Moon showing in March. It rose over the trees in the woods behind the house. We live on a ridge; we’re high enough that the moon topped the leafless trees early.
The March full moon is called a “Worm Moon,” but I didn’t try to explain that to Joanna Leigh. It signals the coming of northern spring, a thawing of the soil, and the first stirrings of earthworms in dormant gardens. This year’s Worm Moon was beautiful.
At first I pointed up and pointed up. She kept tilting her head further and further upward. I kept saying “moon.’ Finally she spotted it. She breathed in, eyes wide and lips rounded in astonishment and wonder. After that, every evening she expressed that same wonderment as we watched it rise. She said “moon. And she put it together with the moon in the favorite child’s book, Goodnight, Moon; she would point at the book and says “moon.” We read.
She can find the moon herself now. She showed me the Corn Moon last Friday.
Grandchildren are a wonder in a way different from what you remember about your own, I think. As the jokes go, grandparents don’t know which is better: the headlights at the grandchildren's coming or the taillights at their leaving; they are wonderful and tiring, but you can send them home to mama and daddy.
My granddaughter doesn’t go home to mama or daddy, because of our daughter’s history of unrelenting drug use. My husband and I were granted custody of Joanna Leigh last March. Thankfully, she is now able to spend more time with her mother, who has been drug-free for months and who shows unprecedented determination to stay that way. Being with her mother makes her very happy, and she has shown her Mommy the Moon.
Grandparents’ parenting grandchildren is quite different from headlights coming and going. Cute misbehavior, a.k.a. testing your resolve, now demands consistent disciplining. Discontent, temper tantrums, hunger, and tiredness, a.k.a. whining and throwing yourself to the floor, now becomes intolerable and demands constant attention. The pleasure of reading a bedtime story instead of watching the evening news now becomes a long-term teaching tool.
Running after her in the yard for two and three hours. Bending down to clean up sticky juices and drinks from toys and the hardwood floor. Getting the car seat out of the car to hose it down. Carrying her up stairs. Leaning over the tub to give her a bath. Keeping up with laundry. Running up stairs to grab diapers you forgot to take downstairs.
Looking in the mirror only to realize again that I am 66 can increase the anxiety of what lies before my husband and me as parenting grandparents. Days will ease away into the twilight, but there are no taillights. Dawn returns like headlights up the driveway, ushering in the next day and the next and the next. We will reinvent each day as long as we can, even if we have to make it up as we go along.
And to keep perspective, I’ll keep my eye on www.spaceweather.com. I’ll consult my Old Farmer’s Almanac. And delight in Joanna Leigh’s love of seeing the Moon.
As the schedule of the remaining full moons below reveals, we will all have a special New Year’s Eve treat this year in the U.S. Central time zone: A Blue Moon. There won’t be another Blue Moon until August 2012.
Next is the Harvest Moon, October 4 in some U.S. time zones.
One way to make a blue moon: use a blue filter. That's what Kostian Iftica did when he photographed this full moon rising over Brighton, Mass. (http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/scitech/display.cfm?ST_ID=585)
Full Corn Moon
Full Harvest Moon
Full Hunter's Moon
Full Cold Moon
Full Blue Moon