I am trying to hang on until February, the month known to some Indian tribes as the Hunger Moon, and a fitting name it is too. When Native Americans said hunger, that’s probably exactly what they meant. Not too many of us actually starve in the 21st century but that doesn’t mean we aren’t hungry to bid adieu to a monochrome world of black and white and gray and tan. Instead give us a background of lush green dotted with an artist’s palette of pastels – lilac and yellow and rose. And banish that gloomy overcast in favor of a bright blue sky featuring puffy cartoon clouds. And the sun, oh, please, the sun! In my own personal lexicon, I call February the NASCAR Moon since that’s when racing season starts again with its colorful cars and fire-suited drivers, roaring engines, cheers and jeers for the drivers we most love or hate. Daytona!
March, in Indian parlance, had a more hopeful ring. It was the Bird Return Moon. Of course, some birds always jump the gun and don’t wait until humans give them the linguistic go-ahead. Once when I was in my office in Lafayette, approximately 25 Robins bounced around in the limbs of the tree across the street, looking like they were trying to stay warm. If they thought they were smart early birds trying to get the worm ahead of their brethren, they were sadly mistaken. There is such a thing as being too early to get the worm when the ground is still snow-covered and frozen.
Hungry Native Americans probably didn’t care much, one way or the other about Robins. I expect their Bird Return reference was more likely about birds that would fill a cooking pot, like ducks and geese.
Beyond the Bird Return Moon, we come to the Green Grass Moon of April. What an inviting sound that has because green grass implies sunlight and rising temperatures. We can gripe when it’s cold outside but at least we have furnaces and insulation. I imagine there was a whole new dimension to being thankful for heat when you lived in a teepee or hut that depended on a fire for what little warmth you had.
Next comes the Planting Moon, which is self-explanatory, and after that the Rose Moon. The Rose Moon conjures up visions of young love. People can fall in love in any season, of course, but there weren’t many places to go to exchange tender kisses back in pioneer days. But, a young couple holding hands with spring moonlight glistening on the river and the scent of roses all around, there’s a romantic visual for you.
After the Rose Moon, the Lightning Moon of the month we call July. Shimmering waves of heat broken by thunderheads rearing up into the sky, the crash of thunder and jagged, streaking fireworks of lightning. Ironic that we celebrate the Fourth of July with brilliant light shows in the sky in imitation of Mother Nature.
Next is my birthday month, August, which I’ve always thought was the most boring month of the year. No holidays, nothing much to distinguish itself, mostly mundane weather. Too late to plant, too soon to pick. The Native Americans must have agreed for they labeled it, blandly, the Green Corn Moon.
I like the term Gathering Moon for September better than what we call a Harvest Moon. Harvest is too limiting in that you primarily harvest plants while you can gather anything – firewood and hides and honey. Or you can gather family around a bountiful harvest table. No need to confine that to one designated day in November.
October is the Leaf Falling Moon – a rather melancholy designation. It starts with a jubilant burst of jewel tones spreading across the hillsides but you know that the vibrant scarlets and golds and coppers and clarets will turn dry and float to the ground, leaving only the skeletal bones of the trees behind.
To the Indians, the Hunting Moon was November. I don’t know why. I assume they hunted all year ‘round. Were the weather conditions better during November? Was tracking easier with plant life killed back by frost? Was it a conservation issue with baby animals raised so that a new generation was assured? I’ll have to do some research….but not today.
We’ve just about come full circle with the seasons with December being the Long Night Moon. Hopefully, we used the other Moons to gather and hunt so that we’re prepared to survive those long, cold nights.
Finally, the new year begins with the Snow Moon. January starts our new year, at least although I’m not sure Native Americans considered it the “first” Moon. Probably in terms of bringing hope, the Bird Return Moon would be better or perhaps the Planting Moon or even the Gathering Moon. Snow on more snow doesn’t seem like a very positive renewal of the seasons but I suppose it’s too late to start over now.
On the other hand, NASCAR starts gearing up in January with the Hall of Fame inductions. January 20 if the country’s State of the Union and NASCAR’s Fan Appreciation Days. I actually think the State of NASCAR is a lot better than the State of the Union. So f we can get through the Snow Moon, it’ the NASCAR moon!