The Full Beaver Moon
Today there is a full moon and I was looking forward to sitting out in the hot tub and taking in the full moonshine in the late evening darkness. It might have been warm today for the last time this year and it will cool quickly tomorrow. So soaking in the moonlight has a peaceful romance to it. But it’s overcast and the romance is muffled.
Nearly 50 years ago in November, I wrote the finest poem I have ever written, a sonnet perfect in form and meter, about giving up my virginity in a cemetery under the Full Mourning Moon. My creative writing teacher refused to share it with the class, deeming it too intimate. The story wasn’t entirely true – and in a way that was the best of it. I spent the night of the full Beaver Moon in a cemetery with the man who inspired the poem. But intimacy fled us that night, as we shivered among the gravestones and watched the Fogmoon illuminate the boney fingers of the leaf-stripped trees until the dawn erased it.
In the 8 years following that night, I moved more than 12 times, packing each time fewer and fewer belongings and leaving more and more behind in the trash, stripping myself bare of my past and my muse. One of those moves divested me of my poetry, all of the hundreds of verses I had penned since junior high school and carefully saved and revised from time to time, the ledger of my coming of age. Another move took the memories and musings of my pregnancy and the photos of my infant daughter, who was born in November. The things you give up in November, you never get back. They get lost in the fog and dissipate themselves amid the gray and damp.
The East Coast natives called the November full moon the Beaver Moon. It was the time to set traps for beaver. Their coats are full, but they haven’t holed up beneath the ice for the winter yet. A double bounty of warm fur and good food. For a people who were closer to the earth than we are today, the seasonal cycle followed the moon more than the sun and many of the tribal groups had their names for each of the full moons, consistent with the season. Here in the northeast the autumnal full moons are most commonly remembered as the Corn Moon in September, the Hunter’s Moon in October, the Beaver Moon in November and the Cold Moon in December.
Either the September or October moon can be the Harvest Moon, depending on which falls closer to the equinox around September 20. According to legend this full moon sheds sufficient light for farmers to finish their harvests at night.
The moon phases have provided advice to farmers for perhaps millennia, helping them decide when the plant and when to harvest. The Old Farmer’s Almanac uses a moon phase ephemeris to provide advice on all aspects of planting, growing and harvesting. The biodynamic farming methods developed by Rudolph Steiner, and those developed at Findhorn Community and other places use not only the moon’s phases, but which astrological sign the moon inhabits on any particular day, as well as intuitive relationship with the ground itself. The moon’s astrological location determines whether leaf, flower, fruit or roots should be planted, transplanted, tended or harvested on any particular day. I used this method at 9 Mile Farm and at home this year for planting and transplanting. By the end of season, things were too crazy to figure out what should be done. I intend to do this again in 2014.
The wind (Wayra in Peru) has come up full force outside, moaning through the loose window casings of our old house. Wayra is one of the great elements in Peruvian mythology. She can pick you up and fly you anywhere, anywhen. I went outside to breath in the Full Mourning Wind. There is a subtle roaring aloft and in front of the missing moon the clouds sail by in shades of navy. The leaf-empty arms of the trees clack and clap together in the gusts. I can close my eyes, spread my arms, face into the wind, and let Wayra carry me above the clouds where the light of the Full Beaver Moon can fill my spirit and get me ready for winter. Good night.
Interested in Findhorn? Check it out here: http://www.findhorn.org
Interested in biodynamic gardening/farming? Check it out here: https://www.biodynamics.com/biodynamics.html
Also check out Hawthorne Valley Farm in Chatham which operates a biodynamic farm and offers courses and educational programs: http://hawthornevalleyfarm.org
Interested in the Old Farmer’s Almanac? Check it out here: http://www.almanac.com