Spending New Year’s Eve with the Moon

By , December 31, 2009

Tonight, for New Year’s Eve, we’ll be going outside and watching the sky. Not for fireworks, but for the moon. For the first time in 19 years, since before Aly was born, we will have a Blue Moon for New Year’s Eve.

A Blue Moon, as you probably know, is a second full moon in a month. Here in Alaska, that first full moon came December 1. It was on December 2nd for the rest of the nation. Technically, the full moon will come this morning. Also, there will be a partial lunar eclipse at around 8:15 am local. We may have to hike over the ridge to see it.

Moon gazing is a favorite, but rare activity for me. I adore the moon, but with our predominantly cloudy weather, we rarely get to see it. Living off the grid, well away from artificial light pollution, moonlight is a far greater force in our life than it is for most Americans. Even on cloudy nights, when her face is hidden from us, the moon illuminates the cloud cover when gibbous or full, lightening our incredibly dark nights. At this time of year, moonlight reflected off the snow-covered mountains across the fjord is a sight of spiritual beauty. As winter wanes, the warming sun melts the surfaces of the snowfields. They refreeze at night; the moonlight reflecting off that is truly spectacular.

Moon light on the ice fields across the fjord.

We waste a lot of time and energy trying to reproduce our views here. The primary difficulty is matching the magnification we see with the flat reproduction of our digital cameras. This is never more frustrating than when trying to capture the moon as we see it. The huge disk we see above the mountains at moonrise becomes an insignificant dot in our photographs. And, unless we have our tripod handy, these photos will inevitably be blurry as the aperture stays open long enough to capture enough light.

So, for the most part, we can only describe in words what we see. This is unfortunate and frustrating. We treasure the view all the more for our inability to capture proper images of it.

Moon gazing is a calm New Year’s Eve “revelry,” but it suits us. Michelle and I talked recently about our histories with the holiday. We agreed that New Year’s Eve got much better once we grew old enough to babysit. Sitting quietly in someone else’s home, eating snacks, watching T.V. or listening to music, and raking in premium pay more than made up for any parties we may have been missing.

In the early years of our marriage, when I was a rock’n’roll disk jockey, we ushered in each year with friends, dancing to live music till dawn on New Year’s Day.

Now, we’re at the age, and Aly is luckily of the temperament, where we feel the New Year can safely usher itself in without us necessarily being conscious of it. We celebrate, but don’t stay up till midnight if we don’t feel like it.

Usually, we have fireworks for New Year’s Eve. There’s a very good fireworks dealer in our area, who sells around Independence Day and Christmas/New Year’s. We’ve gotten some excellent deals from him. We think fireworks might be illegal in Haines, but since we’re on our own private property, remote enough that even our nearest neighbors have never heard our loudest explosions, and far more fire safety conscious for our own sakes than anyone else would be for us, we indulge in a cautious display now and then. July has too much daylight to be effective, but the darkness of the New Year is perfect—we can blast in the year before dinner if we want to!

But, the stash we created several years ago has dwindled, the dealer is almost 30 miles up the valley, the roads are icy, and we really could find better things to do with our funds than burn them, (even though that burning would be a dramatic flash and bang). Tonight, our fireworks will come from the natural sky.

It would be cool if the moon really did turn blue . . . .

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