On one particular night in early September a number of years ago, I saw the most amazing thing.
I was driving east on D Street in North Wilkesboro, heading toward the hillcrest at the intersection with Kensington Avenue, when I looked up and saw that the moon was absolutely huge. A deep, burnished orange, it covered the horizon.
This, of course, was one phase of what is called a harvest moon. I’d never seen it appear to be so huge.
The orange harvest moon has always been beautiful to me. It signals the end of summer and the beginning of autumn, which is my favorite season. Warm days and cool to crisp nights, with the leaves eventually gaining their bright colors, makes fall in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains a particularly enjoyable time.
Beyond the seasonal changes, autumn is football season. High school stadiums are full on Friday nights and the pageantry and excitement of major college football dominates Saturdays.
The full moon of September, clothed in orange hue or not, is known as the harvest moon. For those in the eastern portion of the U.S., the harvest moon will reach its fullest stage Saturday at 12:35 a.m.
I found this information while online, searching the Internet. By the way, “online” wasn’t a common word when I was a teenager. The Internet wasn’t even a science fiction concept.
Personal computers didn’t really come into vogue until my late 20s. We also didn’t have cellular telephones—and thus less distraction-- but that’s another column topic altogether.
The harvest moon, by way of explanation, is the full moon coming closest to the autumnal equinox. This particularly lunar appearance can come two weeks before or two weeks after the equinox, depending on the year. It looks bigger in the early evening sky because the moon is at its lowest point on the horizon.
It’s called a harvest moon, because the extra brightness illuminated the night well beyond dusk, allowing farmers to harvest their crops on into the evening. More in antiquity, the September full moon phase was also referred to as the “barley moon” or the “rutting moon,” because this is beginning of mating season for deer.
If we can avoid too many clouds—and that might just be the case—late Friday night and early Saturday should present us with a nice view of this autumn phenomenon. In fact, the moon should be putting on a show for a couple of evenings in a row.
Interestingly, for people in the Central and Mountain time zones, the harvest moon will be on Friday the 13th. I don’t think this has any significance at all, but wife, Shari, would definitely disagree. Before she retired from her position as a trooper with the N.C. Highway Patrol, Shari insisted that more bad behavior occurred when there was a full moon.
The full moon in October is often referenced as the “hunter’s moon” or the “sanguine moon.”