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Published August 24 2013

Ahlin: August moon embodies character of the month

The Full Sturgeon Moon, the Blue Moon, the Full Red Moon, the Green Corn Moon; the Grain Moon? When it comes to names for August’s full moon that enchanted us this past week, we have our pick. True, the Blue Moon, defined as the third moon in a four-moon season rather than a second full moon in the same month, doesn’t happen every year.

However, the rest of the names always apply. No other full moon all year long has been anointed with as many traditional names, a fact that makes sense to me. August’s gorgeous moon embodies the character of the month – rich, excessive and satisfying – all splendor and fullness. Add heat and late-summer scents bathing us as we moon-watch, and we’re overwhelmed. Like the rest of August’s bounty, it’s more than we can take in.

Nor (sigh) can we make it last.

Briefly, however, the natural world is spectacular and belongs to us. The glistening field of stubble that was golden wheat swaying in the breeze last week is our drive-thru picture post card of harvest begun. The long train of black oil tankers rumbling along the horizon behind four orange engine cars – backdrop to the high-low texture of corn and soybean or sugar beet fields – lends much the same sensation: We inhabit a painted landscape. Biting into the first garden tomato lets us know our taste buds haven’t forgotten what’s truly delicious; sweet pungent basil does the same for our olfactory system.

But back to the moon and its August names. Full Sturgeon Moon has Native American roots, all about the plentitude of big fish in enormous bodies of water (think, the Great Lakes). The Full Red Moon graced us last week, coming as it did with the return of heat and sultry air, a hazy, tomato-like moon on the rise, the natural flipside to the tomato-red sun just gone down and looking so enormous and near, we expected it to roll right out of the sky. The Green Corn Moon speaks to bounty yet to come, and the Grain Moon is all about harvest right now. Poetically, my favorite name is the Full Red Moon. Practically – and nostalgically – it’s the Grain Moon: glowing overseer for harvesting barley and oats, wheat and rye.

In a piece for the New York Times, columnist Gail Collins wrote about the moon last week in an entirely different context. Actually, what she wrote about was Congress and its interaction with NASA, particularly about planet-threatening asteroids and their perceived ability to bring Congress together. (There’s “wide bipartisan agreement … that nobody wants their constituents to be clobbered by an asteroid.”) However, because the Obama administration responded to the scientific concern over asteroids by promoting NASA’s “asteroid grand challenge,” the Republicans in the House seem to have decided NASA’s money is better spent on yet another moon landing. (Really? Partisan battles over the moon and asteroids? Should we giggle; should we groan?)

Better we concentrate on the enchanting moon and moonlight that coaxes us outside late into the night. At the lake, which is one of my favorite spots for moon-watching, a crystal pathway on the water beckons: Get into a canoe; paddle into my brilliance.

Of course, I have other favorite spots for gazing at August’s moon, mainly country roads that I know well, roads around my hometown of Ellendale, N.D. Some years, I’m on them when August’s great round moon rises, the fullness of one moment imbued with the remembrance of others much the same, echoes and echoes of yesteryears. I like knowing whose fields I’m driving by, probably their parents and grandparents, too.

I like the sense of place.

Sense of place also figures into my affection for my brother’s front porch where moon-gazing is likely to come with a glass of wine. Formerly our family home, it’s where I learned to appreciate August as the zenith of the growing season and, of course, as month of the marvelous moon.


Ahlin writes a Sunday column for The Forum. Email janeahlin@yahoo.com