Perigee moon

Tonight’s full moon coincides with the perigee of the moon’s orbit around the earth. It’s all very straightforward, scientifically.

From Wikipedia, Orbit of the Moon

The moon’s orbit is elliptical (not circular), meaning its distance from the earth varies, slightly more than 42-Km from apogee to perigee, or about ±5.5% of its average distance from the earth. The ellipse of the orbit isn’t fixed; it gradually rotates (precesses), completing a rotation in just under 9 years. Add the geometric dynamics among the earth, moon, and sun that cause the phases of the moon — and you have a complex geometric problem.

Watching the moonrise, though, transcends all this geometry and physics. Shivering in the chilly evening, I see an orange orb slowly emerge from the clouds. With elevation, the orange becomes the familiar pale while circle that we glance at from time to time, taking it all for granted.

But tonight I wonder over how many billions of years has this scene played out, and for how many eons have human eyes watched this same spectacle and, without the knowledge of celestial mechanics, contemplated the causes. From such musings religions must have been born.

We, who are so bent on the notion that science can explain everything, need a dose of place and humility from time to time. For me, at least, tonight’s perigee moon provides that impulse for reflection.

“Goodnight moon.
Goodnight stars.
Goodnight air.
Goodnight noises everywhere.

Further reading and references:

  • Wikipedia article, Orbit of the Moon
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • 50 photos of the full moon from around the world (added March 23)
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    Saturday morning, the house slowly stirring, I’m enjoying a few quiet moments for musing and puttering despite my long list of to dos. I’m grateful that life in our house is normal.

    Across the Pacific, an earthquake and tsunami have wreaked horrible destruction in Japan. The photos and videos, even though incredibly moving, cannot convey the extent of the suffering and sadness inflicted upon so many. It’s hard to imagine the thousands of individual experiences and stories, ranging from inconvenience to death.

    A Japanese colleague sent me this e-mail:

    Our Tokyo office also shaken quite a bit. It was very scary, and all the train stopped. I have walked 10 miles for 3 hours to home. Now I go to bed.

    We never know when the fabric of life will be ripped, when normal will turn to chaos. The reminder for me is to savor each today, to appreciate the normal.

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    This morning the sun peered through the trees, seemingly directly east of us, as it began the day’s ascent. The snow is melting, enough for me to see over most of the banks in the parking lots; swaths of grass are visible in the front yard. I sense spring is coming.

    This day is comfortably routine. Not traveling, I was up to see the kids off to school, burned 450 calories on the elliptical, ate oatmeal with blueberries and brown sugar, stopped at Starbucks for coffee on the way to the office. Small, yet important, markers that provide equilibrium and are often overlooked sources of gratitude.

    58 years ago today, 2,900 miles from here, I was born. While I don’t get sentimental about birthdays, I am conscious that this milestone should not be considered routine. I’ve lived long enough to have some sense of history, of life, and of death. And I have a visceral sense that my own horizon is out there, not yet within view — but it never is, is it?

    Grateful for my years and the expansive life they’ve brought, I ponder the niggling questions that have been visiting me during the quiet moments: am I fulfilling my purpose, doing what inspires me, leaving the world a bit better? Will I, when that horizon arrives, look back with few regrets, knowing I have done all I could reasonably have hoped to do?

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