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The Whitehurst Diaries: The Night Side of the Moon
It was an important time for planting potatoes this week, during the 'dark of the moon.' Sharon and Jim found agreement with their Amish neighbors in the Pellyton Community with reliance on time honored traditions of the Amish, of the Whitehursts' own family's adherence to advice in the Old Family Almanac and modern day use of Moongiant.com which provides a moon calendar and a place to learn more about the phases of the moon.
Click on headline for complete Sharon Whitehurst essay with photo(s)
By Sharon Whitehurst
The 'moon' has figured in several conversations lately. When two young Amish women from a neighboring farm stopped by one evening our talk touched on gardening. While we lamented the stoniness of our current garden spot, the girls mentioned that in spite of the prevailing rocky soil their family manages a good garden, including a healthy crop of potatoes.
"Do you have them in yet?" Jim inquired.
Lizzie hastened to assure us that potatoes should be planted in 'the dark of the moon' which will occur during the first days of June.
My Grampa Mac would have approved. I haven't searched through the half dozen of his diaries in my possession to note when he planted potatoes each spring in the sloping patch of ground west of the marsh. I have only recently discovered that, with the wonders of the internet, I could key in those dates and view a calendar depicting the phases of the moon for that month and year.
Grampa Mac kept the latest copy of The Old Farmers' Almanac on the living room table near his favorite rocking chair [along with the Sears Roebuck catalog and back issues of Farm Journal.]
A farmer lifelong, he drew on an accumulated store of wisdom regarding seasons and weather. When he consulted the 'almanac' it was likely to verify his own canny predictions, aided by the weather forecast aired each morning on his aging AM radio.
My father, Larry, though not a farmer, was an outdoors-man, fascinated by the shifting patterns of seasons and weather. He too kept an almanac handy, comparing its prophetic warnings with the several thermometers strategically installed at eye level on various outside window ledges.
Growing up a country child, I learned the habit of noticing my surroundings, becoming aware of the subtle changes in behavior of humans and animals as days and weeks and months move through their ceaseless cycles. Bits of Grampa Mac's weather lore became a part of my own response to wind, rain, heat and cold.
I know very little of astronomy; I don't delve into astrology, sensing that it would be dangerous territory. I give only a cursory glance at the weather icons which pop up on my google news page. I leave it to Jim with his love of the doplar weather site to inform me that I had better do [or plan not to do!] certain tasks based on the weather about to be upon us.
I watch the moon--not as one who counts the nights between each phase or waits with anticipation for a blessing from the full moon. The moon is 'full' for only one night in each cycle, but the waxing and waning gibbous moon sheds a luminous glow that draws me outside to marvel time and again.
During the past month I've made frequent evening visits down the lane to fuss over our neighbors' baby goats before they are taken into the stable for the night. As darkness falls, the nannies have still been in the pasture with the three Great Pyrenees dogs who guard them.
When the moon neared full the dogs barked almost incessantly, rushing to announce our goings and comings, challenging Willis the Cat as he sauntered down the lane. Their normal concern for the welfare of their herd seemed heightened to a frantic pitch. The goats appeared more than usually mischievous and lively, fired with fractious energy. Bonny reported that a usually biddable doe suddenly struck out with a swift hoof and knocked over the full container of her milk, splattering the floor, upsetting the other goats awaiting their turn at the milking stand, instigating a cacophony of bleats and indignant caprine shrieks.
Lingering outside at dusk as the moon rose, we remarked on the general restlessness that prevailed. The barking of other dogs rang from neighboring ridges, adding to the clamor of the huge white canines pacing the fence line. Owls hooted nearby, unseen, answered by others in the woods beyond the creek.
At home our house cats behaved as though possessed, galloping up and down the stairs, larruping around the kitchen, skidding through the hall, cuffing at one another, executing flying leaps across my desk or Jim's, careening on to the sunroom to slump in a snarling welter of tails and paws.
When I mentioned the animal uproar to friend Jay, he diagnosed 'moon madness' and reported that the two sedate old lady cats who live with him and his wife had that very morning stampeded through the rooms 'like elephants', barreling across his lap as he sat watching the earliest daylight bring shimmering color to the meadow below his house.
Was there something particularly intense about the waxing of the April moon? Did the burgeoning of green plants, budding trees, the birth of animal young fuse in some mystical way with the lunar force that pulls the tides and sheds silvered light over field and lane?
As the waning gibbous moon diminished to its last quarter a perceptible calm settled over the dogs, the goats, the cats. The Pyrenees matron and her two daughters spend the days quietly watching over their goats. They give a woof of greeting and accompany me along the lane on their own side of the fence, grinning, keeping up a low rumble of conversation.
The goats glance at me and return to their browsing. The cats have quit roistering through the house, content to loll in front of the fire, for the night side of the moon brought cold rain and grey sullen days. The 'night side of the moon' provides a time of quiet contemplation, a regrouping after the exciting and dizzying responses of human-kind and animal-kind during the compelling phase of waxing moonlight.
Tonight, May 6th marks the new moon. On this first night there is 0% illumination.
As this new moon waxes toward full, moving through its mysterious and ageless pattern, I will be taking renewed interest in the responses of those around me, observing the resident creatures, the better to deal with the intermittent 'lunacy' which may again prevail. See Moongiant.com provides a moon calendar and a place to learn more about the phases of the moon.
This story was posted on 2016-05-07 05:41:22
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