Mary Oliver’s Poem for the Harvest Moon

By , September 12, 2011

If you’re reading Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons as a lunar calendar with me this year, it’s time to read the poem for September’s full moon, Harvest Moon—The Mockingbird Sings in the Night.

The Harvest Moon is the first full moon name I ever knew, partly because my dad used to sing barbershop, of which Shine On, Harvest Moon is a standard. Mostly, though, I knew it from my earliest memories, which are of Tieton, Washington. For such a prime apple growing community, along with cherries, pears, and other fruit, harvest time is a high point of the year. I have to admit, though, to a certain disappointment when I eventually learned that the Harvest Moon falls in September rather than October, which always seemed more appropriate to me, as the harvest season seemed to culminate around Halloween in my young mind.

At any rate, Ms. Oliver perfectly captures the over ripeness of the September full moon. When we’re lucky enough to have a corresponding clear night, there’s nothing quite like it, as we have no ambient light here to dim our moon or stars. We have quite literally been able to read by the light of the full moon here. I’m not sure why it seems brighter in September than at other times of the year. It could be a combination of the likelihood of a recent rain to wash dust particles from the air, and colder temperatures, which also seem to clarify the atmosphere.

As for mockingbirds, they’re not indigenous to Alaska; I know nothing about them.

Of course, we’re traveling now. No doubt light pollution is dimming our harvest moon in the Puget Sound region. Here’s hoping it’s a clear night over the homestead, in any case.

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