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Naming the moon
summer moon

The grass needs cutting. The flower bed I started tearing out a month ago is still only half torn. The baby barn swallows have left the nest their parents built in the porch eaves; they’ve also left behind a mess. There is so much work to do.

Just a couple of hours ago Owen and I walked west, toward the sun that had fallen into a cradle just above the horizon, a bulging egg yolk of orange dangling above the treetops, not ready yet to be broken. Now the sun has disappeared and I am walking east, into the dark, into the moon that shimmers behind the thinnest scrim of clouds. With so much magic in the sky, how can a person be concerned with tall grass and weeds and bird droppings?

I love the fact that full moons have names and I love, especially, that this one — July — has several. Full Buck Moon. Full Thunder Moon. Full Hay Moon. Full Wort Moon. Take your choice. Any one of them is evocative enough to conjure up a little sky magic of its own.

It is Full Buck Moon that sends me off on a contemplative tangent as I stroll slowly under its muted light. I remember a summer, a long time ago now, when a group of my friends and I spent a few days at a cabin in the North Carolina mountains, laughing and talking and watching fireflies from Adirondack chairs on the deck. The creek that ran musically just a few feet from the front door was named Buck Creek.

There were four, then six, then — after the death of our beloved Margaret who as the oldest among us took liberties no one else would dare take — five.

A few weeks ago the five were in the mountains again, this time in Tennessee, laughing and talking and watching, from rocking chairs, the artificial lights of the city come on in the valley far, far below us. Being there, being with them was, as always, life-giving.

It should be said that we don’t just laugh and talk and sit. Sometimes we stand. We’ve done a lot of standing. Standing in church to watch daughter-brides and son-grooms walk down aisles. Standing in rousing applause for well-deserved recognition. Standing at gravesides for parents and — oh, God! — once for a grandchild. We stand up, stand tall, and stand by. We stand witness, stand our ground, and stand up for what is right. We do a lot of standing.

Not one of the other four is close enough geographically to stand with me tonight. Close enough to join me in tilting back my head and gazing up at the Buck Moon, seeing shapes in the wispy clouds, feeling memories creep up behind me and fold themselves around my shoulders.

The magic of the full moon, though, does not require proximity. In space or time. The magic of the full moon is that it is full here and there. Then and now. Over them and us. In clear skies or cloudy. The full moon is always full.

The tall blades of grass tickle my legs on my way back inside and over my shoulder the Buck Moon shines on.