This year there was a harvest moon on Friday the 13th. Someone knew that in one of my classes, but no one was really sure what a harvest moon was. There were a lot of theories – when there are two full moons in one month? when the moon looks really big? or maybe orange? or maybe that’s the sun? Once the guesses got wilder, I suggested we look it up.
A harvest moon, it turns out, is the full moon that occurs nearest to the Autumn Equinox. Everyone knew what autumn meant, but equinox presented another conundrum. (Groans.”Stop with the big words, Miss. If you mean problem then say problem.” I mentally added conundrum to our list.) Equinox is when day and night are equal. (Ok, it’s technically the instant of time when the sun crosses the equator, but we stuck with the equinox/equal idea.)
The autumnal equinox this year occurred at 3:50 am on Monday, September 23. I’m not sure if that means that day and night were equal on Sunday or Monday, but Sunday was my equinox. I spent the weekend at a cottage with friends. On Saturday, we spent the morning floating on the lake and laughing. Sunday morning was different. I woke up early and tiptoed out of the house in my pajamas. From the tiny dock – really just a few pieces of wood and a narrow ladder – I watched the sun rise. A loon called, long and lonely. I expected the sun to bring warmth, but instead a breeze came, insistent. I could imagine that the trees across the lake, backlit by the sun and mostly dark, were deeply green, but the trees near me revealed the truth: their leaves were already showing gold and red. I relished the moment between morning and day, the last bit of vacation that reminded me that the school year was well underway. It felt like a moment of balance.
Then I remembered my tea was waiting, probably already cool. I tried to memorize the moment, to catch what was already behind me, really, then I went inside to read.
On Monday I asked “Who remembers equinox?” Most of them raised their hands.