14/11/16The word ‘Supermoon’ is not an astronomical term. Astronomers would use the word: ‘Perigee-syzygy’, and it was witnessed across the planet on the Monday-into-Tuesday of the week commencing the fourteenth of November. Scientists advised that, as it was the biggest moon to be seen since 1948, it could appear to be fourteen percent larger and even brighter, than when at its furthest orbital point from the Earth, the apogee, which is when it’s five per cent more distant. Impressive facts and sobering to think on, given that this would be the only opportunity in my lifetime; I wouldn’t be alive to witness the second.
Gazing on the moon’s celestial beauty that week put me in mind of a book: ‘East Wind Melts the Ice’, written by Liza Dalby, which is: ‘A Memoir Through the Seasons’, a diary created in the form of: ‘Taking the seventy-two seasonal units of an ancient Chinese almanac as seeds’ and growing them into a journal. Dalby is, perhaps, best known for writing about her time spent living as a Japanese Geisha; but in this book, she presents her unique perspective on nature. It takes the form of a ‘year’s journal’, in Japanese called a ‘saijiki’, and written in the style of ‘zuihitsu’, literally, ‘following the brush’, and entwines her personal experience, with her knowledge on the cultural aesthetics of China, Japan and California.
And why of relevance to the ‘Supermoon’? Interesting to learn that whilst Chinese poets may have indulged in moon viewing as a pastime, it was the Japanese who were more elaborate in their ‘moon viewing culture’. Dalby recounts that during the month of the harvest moon and the full moon of September, for example, the Japanese would hold moon viewing poetry events and parties. Issa, a prolific Japanese poet, wrote in 1819: ‘The sake now drunk, let’s get serious about gazing at the moon’. The Japanese also use specific terms in connection with moon viewing: ‘Renowned moon’ is one, meaning ‘Bright moon’. ‘Double moon viewing’ is another, and when the main full moon of September and the slightly less than full moon of October, sometimes called the: ‘After moon’, becomes the second occasion for staying up late, composing poetry, and drinking well into the night.
If we step further back to around 1329, we can sit beneath the cherry trees with Kenko as he writes: ‘Rather than gazing on a clear full moon that shines over a thousand leagues, it is infinitely more moving to see the moon near dawn and after long anticipation, tinged with the most beautiful palest blue… the moist glint of moonlight on the glossy leaves of the forest shii oak or the white oak pierces the heart…’. In just a few lines, his words engage us in his appreciation of the ‘moonlight’; challenging us to ponder how this same moon could pierce our hearts and inspire ‘sincere’ words of poetry.
It would seem that World leaders may be transient, and predictably, stake lives gambling with words; yet to gaze in awe at the scene of a moonlit-star-filled sky is a unifying experience shared by all, not subject to status, income or nationality. ‘Mother Nature’ gifts such joy, free to all; because within her hand rests real Power, the ‘Trump’ card, transcending all.
Source material and for more information:
East Wind Melts the Ice: A Memoir through the Seasons by Liza Dalby
A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees by Kenko – Penguin Little Black Classics No 11