Moonstruck

Today is the first day of the lunar year and an important holiday to Asians throughout the world. It’s easy to understand why this is a special holiday – the moon’s 28 day cycle offers a steady measure of the passage of seasons. 

Anyone who likes to be outdoors, especially early or late in the day, is very much affected by the moon. The presence (or absence) of the moon on a particular night can have a big impact on our outdoor experience. Some nights the effect of the moon is strong – and we are moonstruck.

In a city, the moon may be difficult to see around tall buildings. The lights of a city are constant, and overpower the light of even a full moon. Moon phases are barely noticeable. We may forget that the moon is even there.

But beyond the city, especially on the water, a bright moon adds hours to the day. The shadows cast by a bright moon – moon shadows – are unforgettable. A new moon means a bright night of stars free of the moon’s brilliance. The daily changes in the moon’s location and appearance remind us of the passing time.

Different theories attempt to explain the impact of moon phases on hunting and fishing activities. You can read more about the predictive “solunar tables” here. Regardless of the theories, one thing is clear – the moon is meaningful and important to outdoor creatures, including the wader and the paddler. 

Years ago I recognized that I was much more aware of the phase of the moon in the fall and early winter – when it mattered for wildfowl hunting. I would look for it even during the day, and watch its progress across the sky as it waned or waxed. When wildfowl season ended and the moon became somehow less important, something was missing. I now understand that awareness of the moon phase is an important connection to the natural world.

If you don’t have a clear view of the moon, or have not looked in a while and have lost track of its journey, apps like Luna Solaria make it easy to check the phase (and key future phase dates) – and plan outdoor events accordingly. Or at least they help you know and where to look for the moon and stay connected to it.

Today is a new moon and a new “Lunisolar” year. A new year brings the promise of wading and paddling our rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands.

In China it is the Year of the Ox. To us, it’s also the Year of the Heron. 

Stay tuned for more.