Welcome to day 12 of 28 Days of Have Heaven, a short month of posts about heaven, paradise, perfection and desire, perfect places, art, theology, gardens, and more, using the Enya song “China Roses” as a jumping off point. Each post will look at these elements in itself, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may only peripherally be related. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted
We’re in the midst of a dozen days or so playing with some of the lyrics and elements in the song “China Roses.” It’s packed with interesting plants and allusions, and since I don’t know what was in lyricist Roma Ryan’s head when she concocted this magic, I feel I can construe the lines as I wish (“who can say the way it should be?,” after all).
Yesterday, the topic was the end of evening: hue of indigo and blue. Today’s is a new moon leads me.
As I mentioned at the start, taken as a whole, the lyrics span time from dawn through day to evening, night, and moon rise, evoking an exotic Eden, mythic and romantic, scented with heady fragrances, planted with unusual specimens made lush by rain and river, under a swirl of celestial motion. Explicit in the words and implicit in the connotations, histories, and mythologies are repetitions and reverberations of these conjurings, a journey through time in a day, time in an eon, eternity in the cosmos.
Here again are the lyrics:
Who can tell me if we have heaven,
Who can say the way it should be;
Moonlight holly, the Sappho Comet,
Angel’s tears below a tree.
You talk of the break of morning
As you view the new aurora,
Cloud in crimson, the key of heaven,
One love carved in acajou.
One told me of China Roses,
One a thousand nights and one night,
Earth’s last picture, the end of evening:
Hue of indigo and blue.
A new moon leads me to
Woods of dreams and I follow.
A new world waits for me;
My dream, my way.
I know that if I have heaven
There is nothing to desire.
Rain and river, a world of wonder
May be paradise to me.
Today is the first quarter moon, at 5:26 p.m. The moon rose at 10:42 a.m. and won’t set until 1 a.m. tomorrow.
The new moon, first quarter moon, full moon, and third quarter moon are all exact moments, while the waxing crescent, waxing gibbous, waning gibbous, and waning crescent each last about a week.
New Moon: Occurs the moment when the Sun and moon are aligned, with the Sun and Earth on opposite sides of the moon. It’s impossible to see the new moon then (except during an eclipse), since only the dark side of the moon faces us. The greatest difference between high and low tide (spring tides) takes place around New Moon and Full Moon. If you try to find photos of the new moon, what you’ll mostly see are either photos during an eclipse or photos of a crescent moon.
“The moon that, as a crescent, shaved slivers from the soul – or, as a new moon, silently bathed the earth in its own loneliness. THAT moon.” — Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
Waxing Crescent Moon: Begins the moment a thin sliver of the moon becomes visible after New Moon. You can sometimes barely see the rest of the moon during most of this phase “because Earth also reflects sunlight onto the moon, a phenomenon called earthshine.”
First Quarter Moon: Occurs the moment the moon has reached the 1st quarter of its orbit around Earth. Earthlings can see exactly 50% of the moon’s surface illuminated. The smallest difference between high and low tide (neap tides) happens around the two quarter moons.
Waxing Gibbous Moon: Waxing means it’s getting bigger; gibbous, from Middle English for “hump-backed,” can also refer to a pregnant belly, and it’s the shape of the moon in this phase, not a semi-circle nor a full circle.
Full Moon: The brightest phase, this is when the Sun and moon are aligned on opposite sides of Earth. When it’s closest in orbit to the Earth, it’s a Supermoon and when it’s farthest away it’s a Micromoon.
Waning Gibbous Moon: The illuminated visible half of the moon decreases now.
Third Quarter Moon: Occurs the moment the opposite half of the moon is illuminated compared with the first quarter moon.
Waning Crescent Moon: The Sun illuminates less than half of the visible part of the moon now and as the week goes on, sometimes we can see earthshine on the rest of the moon. (Source)
Check out daily moonphases past, present, and future.
Space.com offers a constant stream of articles about all things celestial, including “February New Moon 2019: Catch Saturn, Mars & More in the ‘Moonless’ Night Sky” for February 2019.
It’s worth remembering, from an astronomical perspective and a metaphorical one, that the moon doesn’t emit its own light, it only reflects light (mostly from the Sun). And the new moon, because the Sun is close to it and illuminating the side of the moon that we don’t see, is essentially dark (to us). So the new moon doesn’t “lead” by shining a light on a wooded path for us to follow; the new moon is not a celestial flashlight.
And that means that new moon nights are the best for inhabiting darkness: “You can’t study the darkness by flooding it with light” (Edward Abbey).
A night with a new moon is really just a dark night, a moonless night, an inky star-riddled night. It’s a night for walking in darkness, dreaming deep and long, bathing in starlight, gazing thousands of years into the past, recognising unseen power, feeling the tug of our dilute bodies toward water.
“Nights have a habit of mysterious gifts and refusals,
of things half given away, half withheld,
of joys with a dark hemisphere. Nights act
that way, I tell you.”
— Jorge Luis Borges, from “Two English Poems” (1964)
The moon, of course, is always the same shape in the sky; its power, its pull on tides, alters each day of the month, but the moon’s form — which looks like a perfect disk but is actually a very slightly egg-shaped spheroid — is really always full, a complete moon; it only appears to grow and diminish to us watching it from our planet. We don’t see it when it’s new, but its influence remains: the unseen new moon controls the ebb and flow of the tides just like the very visible full moon does.
“Knowing that the moon was probably blasted off the Earth a long time ago when a meteor hit and got her stuck in eternal orbit, I wondered if she ever feels desire for what used to be her body. I wonder what she feels as she moves the water, if she ever wishes she could touch, as she tosses and turns in her night cycles.” — Julie Peters, “The Way the Moon Pulls,” Elephant Journal, June 2013
“There are thirteen moons every calendar year. They measure time differently on the moon. The moon orbits the earth once every 28 days. As though she’s looking for something she lost. A long time ago.” — Jeanette Winterson, A Gap in Time
In contrast to the full moon’s marking of completion or fruition, the new moon is commonly seen as signalling a new start, the beginning of a new (29-day) phase: a monthly re-birth, fueled by the pure, calm energy of the invisible no-moon.
“The full moon represents abundance, being topped out, awash and abursting …. The full moon lights up the entire earth; we must remain deep in shadow if we are to avoid its glare…. But the new moon, that mere sliver of hope, is everything that abundance and fullness are not. Spare and subtle, it allows the stars top billing, encouraging their shine and prominence on the cosmic stage, generous to a fault. Here and then gone, the new moon is a wisp, almost a chimera, slipping anonymously over the horizon before night even unfolds.” (Andrew Hidas, at tra-vers-ing)
The new moon, of no importance
lingers behind as the yellow sun glares
and is gone beyond the sea’s edge;
earth smokes blue;
the new moon, in cool height above the blushes,
brings a fresh fragrance of heaven to our senses. — D.H. Lawrence
TOMORROW: Woods of dreams and I follow
Featured image: Not actually a new moon but almost totality of a superblood full moon eclipse, Sept. 2015. There’s a slight silver streak visible.
Accepting Heaven at Great Basin
by Nathalie Handal
When you doubt the world
look at the undivided darkness
look at Wheeler Peak
cliffs like suspended prayers
contemplate the cerulean
the gleaming limestone
the frozen shades
look at the bristlecone pine
a labyrinth to winding wonders
listen to the caves
remember the smell of sagebrush
after a thunderstorm
that Lexington Arch
is a bridge of questions
in the solitude of dreams
distances disturb desire
to deliver a collision of breaths
the desert echoes
in this dark night sky
stars reveal the way
a heart can light a world.