by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
November 8, 2005
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- We've all done it. We've sat staring into the middle of the room, seeing nothing that hasn't always been there; thinking nothing of significance and then, just then, saying something of such profound significance you wonder why it never occurred to you to ask about it before.
What's a blue moon? I've never seen a blue moon. Is there such a thing as a blue moon?
I started to get excited. That's something I can look into. And, I do love looking into things. I can only say of my own knowledge that "once in a blue moon" is an expression indicating a l-o-n-g period of time.
I love researching something. I've learned more things than would have been possible in a lifetime now that we can turn to Google.com or can Ask Jeeves, two ways to search on the Internet. I spend more time wondering how the information was planted for my discovery than I do taking notes on what I've found.
Before I enter the region of discovery, I consider what I already know. I know it's true. Once in a blue moon is not some colloquialism like "knee high to a grasshopper," for instance. No, blue moons are a fact of life, legend and lore.
But, what is the real meaning? I've learned in the last few minutes that the common notion of a blue moon is the second full moon that appears in the same calendar month - a rare occurrence coming every two and a half or three years. However, that "fact" is traced to a mistake printed in Sky & Telescope magazine in the late '40s.
There are some things in life we trust unequivocally and The Old Farmer's Almanac is one of them. Each year, I pick one up, carry it home, and draw solace from knowing that if I wish to know the best time to plant peas or harvest corn, the information would be there and I could sow and reap with confidence that the weather would suit my purposes.
An early sunrise and a full moon at night would assure my working "from dawn see to can't see" as I've heard a Pennsylvania farmer describe his work day. The Almanac lists the names of all the full moons; the full Beaver Moon was on November 1st and the next will be in December, the full Cold Moon. Brrrrrrr.
The names designating that big glowing sphere in the sky go from the Pink Moon (April), to the Strawberry Moon (June), the Hunter's Moon,(October). In each case, you can see how traditional names came about. After harvesting the crops, there is the Harvest Moon in late September, the ground is covered with leaves and the bare trees reveal the fat deer ambling around under a full moon as well as scampering foxes and other small animals.
I suggest we use Blue Moon a lot more frequently than any of the other names. But, what is it? And, when? Another suggestion is that "occasionally" particles - soot, ash - escape into the atmosphere and a purple cast or a bluish hue gives the impression of its being a Blue Moon. I hope not. That would take a lot of particles from a very big volcanic eruption.
So what does it mean? The expression has been part of our English language for over 400 years. Obviously, it didn't start with us in the United States - although since many of the names for the Moon came from our Native Americans, it's possible it was here when we arrived.
The Moon has been part of my personal lexicon since I learned "Hey, Diddle, Diddle, the Cat and the Fiddle," illustrated with a cow jumping over the Moon. It was a crescent, I'm not sure if it were waxing or waning, but it was a bright and beautiful phase of the Moon. We called the Moon cream cheese and green cheese. Naturally, that was before we knew the surface could hold an astronaut's weight and the Man in the Moon became Man on the Moon.
During the four seasons in a year, three full moons are predicted for each season. And, that's what usually happens. When an extra one rises just within the time frame, altrologers call the third one, the Blue Moon. I won't have another one where I am until 2007. It will probably escape my notice because it isn't going to be "blue."
I've come upon what I do believe is the best definition of Blue Moon. I think it comes from sarcasm, as in saying: "He'd argue black is white." Or, "She'd argue up is down." Or, "He'd tell you the moon is blue when you're both looking at it."
I'm going to continue researching. Check my column for the straight story. It will run on "the twelfth of never." That's about as long as "once in a blue moon."