ISLE -- Each month I eagerly anticipate the arrival of the new full
moon. I don’t know what it is, but mysterious urgings cause me to
wander outside to find an open landscape and patiently wait for the
luminous orb to silently glide into the night sky making its grand
recent full moon of July was hyped up by the media as a “supermoon”
because it was a bit brighter and appeared somewhat larger than normal.
I didn’t like the use of the word because I thought it was conjured up
by the media to sensationalize their coverage of this flashy full moon.
I was surprised to learn that the term “supermoon” is rooted in
astrology and was first used in 1979 to describe a full moon (or a new
moon) that occurs when the moon is closest to the earth, which is
called perigee. Now, any qualified astronomer would not be caught dead
using the term "supermoon." Instead, he or she would properly refer to
this phenomenon as a perigee-syzygy. But this is a bit too stuffy for
me, so supermoon will do just fine.
or not, viewing the full moon from the beach as it reflects the light
of the sun onto the splashing waves of the ocean has an effect on just
about everybody. When you mix the beach, the ocean and a supermoon, I
think anybody could become a moonstruck, loony lunatic. So I decided to
head out to the beach to figure out why the full moon has such a pull
on people just as it does the tides.
arrived at the beach just in time to see the “Thunder Moon” peek above
the horizon. Native Americans referred to the July full moon as the
"Thunder Moon" because of the frequency of thunderstorms during
July. They also named it the “Buck Moon” because the male deer are now
displaying the growth of new velvety antlers.
moon seemed to move quickly into the sky, revealing a soft orange ball.
Some of the beach strollers suddenly stopped in their tracks and
excitedly pointed at the moon in utter amazement, obviously unaware
that the evening would feature a full moon. It was a breathtaking sight
that is best described by a quote from comedian George Carlin: “There
are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.”
romance of the moon was exerting its influence as most of the couples
on the beach were walking hand-in-hand, some shared kisses and long
blissful hugs. The moon has long been a symbol of fertility as
horseshoe crabs and corals rely on the full moon to trigger their
hiked over to a section of sand dunes sprouting a fresh growth of sea
oats and noticed a few things that were reacting to the fullness of the
moon. A marsh rabbit was busy nibbling on some vegetation under the
concealment of a wax myrtle shrub, wary of venturing out into the open.
The full moon could just as easily be a spotlight alerting a great
horned owl to its presence. Some species of reef fish also stay out of
sight during the brightest period of the full moon to hide from
predators. Out in the open dune valley, I could see that the ant lion
sand traps were noticeably bigger than usual to snare insects that are
more active during a full moon.
though it was a steamy July summer night, I was surprised by the number
of people on the beach. I wasn’t the only one magnetized by the beach
and moon. I paused at the base of the dune and watched as narrow
flashlight beams swept across the beach as children searched for ghost
and mole crabs at the edge of the surf. With the sun well under the
horizon, people were still swimming and body surfing under the glow of
the moon. Looking down the beach, the harsh light of an old-school
Coleman lantern silhouetted the whipping motion of a surf rod as a
fisherman cast his hope for a fish into the frothy waves. Even the hiss
of the lantern could be heard as it floated down on a breeze.
I walked on the open beach, sandcastles built under the warmth of the
day’s sun were being erased by the incoming tide. Just one wave
flattened the turrets and walls created by plastic molds and washed
away all evidence of the fortress except for the laughter and memories
of those who built it. Each high tide prepares a new slate to document
the activities of a new day etched in the sand.
watching the people revel on the beach and ocean under the full moon, I
understood the beautiful tranquility -- the sand, the breeze, the
waves, the salt air – has to relax and calm of the soul. This is
why so many people celebrate weddings, reunions, vacations and
birthdays at the shore. The dynamic nature of the ocean is reflected in
its many moods that capture our attention; but there seems to me that
there must be more.
is it that makes people stare out into the ocean and contemplate for
hours? No stranger to the sea, Jacques Cousteau once said, “The Sea,
once it casts its spell holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
Many times in my life I have sought the refuge of a special place
on a barrier island when I needed to reflect or hit the reset button.
No matter what the cause of my concerns, things seemed to always fall
into perspective. For me, heading to the beach during a full moon is
almost an instinctual migration of the soul and spirit.
the moon now high in the sky, I slowly began to meander off the beach
while stealing last glances of the moon that was now a more silver
color than orange. The dry, loose sand was squeaking under my bare feet
as I walked to one of the wooden boardwalks.
From a distance,
I could see the figure of a woman sitting on the last step of the
boardwalk stairs. Her legs were drawn up to her chest and her head and
arms were resting on her knees. I could see that her shoulders were
shaking as she was crying. In the sand at her feet was a tall glass
candle vase along with a picture frame. As I got closer, I could catch
glimpses of a woman’s smiling face as the dancing
candle flame softly illuminated the frame. When I reached the steps I
paused momentarily, to offer what, I don’t know. So deep into her
sorrow, she was oblivious to my presence and I tip-toed up the stairs
and headed down the boardwalk through the dunes. I couldn’t help but to
think that she was finding comfort in the beach and the moon-splashed
ocean as she grieved for a friend.
behind the primary dune line, the sound of the spilling waves ceased as
if someone had closed a door. Yet, there was no silence, as my ears
were now filled with the familiar high-pitched sound of a summer beach
night, the chorus of cicadas and katydids.
the end of the boardwalk, two blurry blue objects were streaking
towards me as I heard children giggling and the slapping of bare feet
on the wooded planks. In a flash, two young kids, maybe 3 to 4 years
old, ran past me, one on each side, gripping blue glow sticks in each
hand. With their laughter drifting into the night, they raced before
their parents towards the shimmery ocean and into the sticky embrace of
the salt spray suspended in the warm summer air.
Then it hit me. We shouldn’t ponder too much about the things we love. We need to just enjoy them.
Note: Sam Bland spent much of his life out in the field as a park
ranger and park superintendent at the N.C. Division of Parks and
Recreation. Most of his 30 years with the division was spent at
Hammocks Beach State Park near Swansboro where Sam specialized in
resource management and environmental education. He joined the N.C.
Coastal Federation in 2009 and is responsible for helping develop
programs at the education center on Jones Island in the White Oak
River. He is also an accomplished photographer.)
story is provided courtesy of Coastal Review Online, the coastal news
and features service of the N.C. Coastal Federation. You can read other
stories about the North Carolina coast at www.nccoast.org.)
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