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“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.”

— George Carlin

Snow Moon - February 2010

George Carlin?  Some people see him as funny; some say he is irreverent; but his words are the ones that express the stark, lonely beauty of the Snow Moon.

Snow moon is the name given to the full moon of February.  It is the moon of deep winter, and it will appear in the night sky tonight.  If last night’s preview (above) was any indication, it should be spectacular!

As I stood shin-deep in the still-lingering snow and saw white ground as far as my eye would travel, I gazed through the branches of the barren pear tree and was pulled into the sky by the radiant glow of the moon.  ‘Snow moon,’ I thought, ‘how perfectly it is named this year.’  With all  that has fallen this winter, there have been times when it has taken a day or two to reach a point where we could back out the car and navigate the roads to the obligatory bread and milk of the winter storm.

I looked again across the snow and as the nothingness of the landscape again forced my eyes to the heavens, I thought of the other name for this moon.  “Hunger moon,” it was called, because in earlier days it illuminated a land where no animals ventured out and hunting was difficult at best.  I thought of my ancestors, new to this land, who faced winters hoping they had prepared adequately — not only to live, but to survive.  They had no bread and milk a mile away.  I tried to imagine the feelings of someone isolated by winter and working diligently to keep a fire burning for warmth.   Were they drawn outside by the bright glow of moonlight on crystal-white snow, only to see a frozen desert, devoid of life?  Were they caught between the breathtaking beauty and its reminder of their desperate isolation?  How different the longing for Spring must have been in those times!  Is it the experiences of our ancestors, engraved on our own DNA, that creates the same kind of longing in us even though we have bread and milk only a mile away?

As you gaze up tonight and see the full moon in the dark night sky, I hope you will hear it howling; and I hope that howling will call you to the beauty of moonlight on new-fallen snow.  I hope you will howl back and that the world will echo with the hunger for the promise of Spring.