First Winter Moon

Today New England came out of a long spell of bitterly cold weather. Day after day the temperatures have been at record lows.  This “cold snap,” as the newspapers like to call it, started by my count on December 26 and has lasted until today, January 8. This two-week period of extreme cold coincided with the appearance of the first full moon after the winter solstice. On the first night of intense cold (Dec. 26), the moon was entering its first quarter.  By a happy coincidence of lunar and human time, it was at the full on the first night of the new year.  Tonight, as the temperatures hover comfortably in the high teens and moisture returns to the air, the moon is at the start of its last quarter.

Night after night, this bold winter moon appeared with stunning clarity in the frigid, utterly clear air.  One night I looked out the window to see fabulous new constellations of huge stars shining high up in the bare branches of the oaks and maples. On closer inspection, I realized that what I was seeing was the vividly clear light of the nearly full moon reflecting here and there off “black ice” encasing the tree tops.

Hungry foxes’ breath
beads to crystal in the cold—
Piercing winter moon.

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