Super! Blood! Blue! Moon!

A tiny drawing of the Super Moon

When is the moon not super? I mean… really. A beautiful, glowing rock that appears in our sky in a variety of shapes at different times of day. It affects tides as it orbits the earth, lights up a dark desert night, keeps you company on a road trip, illuminates the trail on a nighttime MTB ride. It is the star of more than one children’s book, and the destination for a cheese vacation in my favorite Wallace & Gromit movie.

The first time I saw a blood moon, RK and I were camped on top of a remote ridge in the middle of Grand Staircase National Monument. We had been checked out from news and internet for a week. The road we took to our camp was full-on 4-wheel-drive-rugged and very steep. We were exposed on the ridge but the view was miles and miles of vast desert, and a huge open sky. The moon was bright and full when we went to sleep and eerie, rusty red when we got up in the middle of the night. “What the hell is happening to the moon?” I asked and RK did not know. We stood and watched it, with a tickle of a memory of something called a blood moon. If there was such a thing, this was it.

Campsite in southern Utah
Campsite where we saw the blood moon.

As for the blue moon, once I realized that a blue moon is just one of those calendar accidents it seemed far less exciting. It has an excellent theme song though, especially the Billie Holiday version.

I have often thought it would be nice to have more than one moon orbiting earth, though the moon we have is pretty great. Multiple moons might be like having multiple dogs at a barbecue… the more you add to the mix the more chaotic it gets. Saturn has 62 moons, 150 if you include moonlets. Cool, serene Saturn is unfazed by chaos. Earth is more of a minimalist planet, keeping things simple — one planet, one moon.

I live in a city, and in a part of the city that is flat, crowded with bungalows and trees. It doesn’t allow easy visual access to the sky, but I try to keep tabs on the moon. When I step outside in the morning it’s the first thing I look for. If you scroll through my texts from early morning runs or mountain bike rides you might see, “OMG look at the moon!” “Witches moon!” and “Gorgeous moon, go check!!”

Sometimes I think about the footprints and golf balls up there and maybe I’m jealous, but I am also a little sad. Humans are good at leaving our mark on things, but not so good at leaving things alone. Our astronauts were not “Leave no trace” kind of folks. But the moon remains an impractical destination and is mostly free to just be the moon, as it was shaped by time and physics and the universe into a small satellite around our pretty little planet.

If you live in the western United States you are in a great place to see this super blood blue moon on January 31. Set your alarm, wake up early, get yourself to an open view, and take a few minutes to look at the sky, the moon, the stars. While you’re at it, listen. Maybe a bird or two will say good morning. Super duper!

Laurel Hunter

Laurel Hunter

Central Oregon, USA