I live in a rural county where there are no street lights to speak of. When I go outside at night in my yard, I can see lots of stars. This is a nightly delight for me. The changing positions of the constellations, the different locations through the seasons of the planets, all combine to make the sky dynamic and ever-changing palette of a portrait of glory.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
The moon is a special pleasure. It pulls the major weight in making the night and morning sky dynamic. Its phases and nightly rising and setting are also captivating to observe. When there is a supermoon or a blue moon or a strawberry moon and such, I go outside and try to take photos. Well, I DO take photos, but what I try to do is take good photos. I don’t have a tripod so the photos invariably turn out just OK or sometimes not very good at all.
Here are a few of my favorite moon photos-
When I was in my traveling period, one of the most wonderful experiences I’d had was attending the McDonald Observatory Star Party. McDonald Observatory is part of the University of Texas at Austin but 450 miles west of the campus, in West Texas at Fort Davis. Yes, it’s remote. All of West Texas felt remote, a feeling helped by the fact that the landscape at times even looked like the moon!
At the Star Party, visitors enjoy night sky constellation tours and views of celestial objects through a number of telescopes, with scientists and astronomers standing by to explain what you’re seeing. I was privileged to see Saturn and its rings through the observatory telescope!
There’s something about moonlight that just tickles my fancy. As a kid I was entranced by it. Truth be told, as an adult I’m pretty fond of moonlight, still. When the moon shone in my window at night, I’d lay bathing in it and dream of fairies sliding down its beams. I’d bask in the delicate light washing me with exquisite daintiness. I was always amazed at how the moonlight appeared on my bed, washing my coverlets with elegant light so distinct from the glow of the sun. The moonlight was more austerely silver, sliding across my pillow and like quicksilver, drifting away no matter how hard I tried to hold it close to me.
David Bowie’s song Let’s Dance contained the phrase ‘serious moonlight’ which, given the ephemeral quality of moonlight, is something that would be as far as serious as possible, but that’s the joy of poetry – mind-bending juxtapositions.
Van Morrison’s Moondance, with its verse
And all the night’s magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush
Seems more in keeping with the qualities of moonlight.
Now, here’s a thoroughly drenched atmospheric beginning to a poem, The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes,
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
Oh my, ‘ghostly galleon’ is a turn of phrase I envy his mind to think up! And tossed upon cloudy seas brings to mind the exact photo above of the moon in its clouds. How wonderful are poets and writers!
Here is a classic poem by Lucy Maud Montgomery called Harbor Moonrise. I love its charming evocation of the harbor particularly with the mother-o’-pearl edging of the harbor of all the lights twinkling at night, like a woman with a lustrous necklace. The moon as the pilot ship of unknown seas, similar to Noyes’ ghostly galleon upon cloudy seas. Ah, when language is used well, it’s a joy.
Here is a page of classic poems about the moon
As the moon rises and sets in its course each night, look up. Remember the men who sailed there in their own rocket ships, not on wings of poetry but in metal tanks of gas and hope. They landed, walked, admired, and came home having truly bathed in the beams of the distant but close companion of earth. Each night we look at the wandering pilot ship of the skies, the eternal dance among stars and planets, celestial bodies which our God has made.
Harbor Moonrise by Lucy Maud Montgomery
There is never a wind to sing o’er the sea
On its dimpled bosom that holdeth in fee
Wealth of silver and magicry;
And the harbor is like to an ebon cup
With mother-o’-pearl to the lips lined up,
And brimmed with the wine of entranced delight,
Purple and rare, from the flagon of night.
Lo, in the east is a glamor and gleam,
Like waves that lap on the shores of dream,
Or voice their lure in a poet’s theme!
And behind the curtseying fisher boats
The barge of the rising moon upfloats,
The pilot ship over unknown seas
Of treasure-laden cloud argosies.
Ere ever she drifts from the ocean’s rim,
Out from the background of shadows dim,
Stealeth a boat o’er her golden rim;
Noiselessly, swiftly, it swayeth by
Into the bourne of enchanted sky,
Like a fairy shallop that seeks the strand
Of a far and uncharted fairyland.
Now, ere the sleeping winds may stir,
Send, O, my heart, a wish with her,
Like to a venturous mariner;
For who knoweth but that on an elfin sea
She may meet the bark that is sailing to thee,
And, winging thy message across the foam,
May hasten the hour when thy ship comes home?