Moon gazing | Claire Dunn

That's amore: The moon’s beauty is not easily captured. Photo: James Alcock
That's amore: The moon’s beauty is not easily captured. Photo: James Alcock

I have the annoying tendency to remember important dates like family birthdays in the days preceding, only to promptly forget them on the actual day. A similar thing happened two weeks previous, on the night of the supermoon. For days before, I had planned to mark the moon rise with a trip to a beach headland, picturing myself greeting the occasion with a dusk moment of awe and wonder. Instead, overwhelmed with house guests and dinner preparation, I was contained within four walls, oblivious to the arrival of this once-in-a-lifetime celestial event.

It wasn’t until later in the evening, when crystalline rays started beaming into the east-facing windows, that I jumped up from the kitchen table with a yelp and out onto the balcony, dinner guests in tow.

The moment of regret soon evaporated under the golden eye that held us captivated in a silent staring competition for a full five minutes, before someone thought to break the spell with a whispered ‘wow’. In many original cultures, the moon is given a feminine form, often in the form of a grandmother. Grandmother moon is the holder of night time mysteries, the unknown and unseeable, the nurturing and comforting companion of the midnight hour. I felt her full feminine form more than ever that moment, her quiet yet powerful gaze, imagining the loneliness of the sky if she were to no longer appear.

It won’t be until 2034, the next supermoon rise, that she will appear again in such clarity. Around 15 per cent bigger, and 16 per cent brighter than a typical full moon, a supermoon is the coincidence of a full moon with the closest approach the moon makes to the earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from earth.

On November 14, the full moon was 356 508 kilometres from Earth, the closest since January 1948, when it was nearly 47 kilometres closer. 

On top of the moon’s bigger-than-usual size, this supermoon had an additional ‘low-hanging moon’ effect, an optical illusion caused by the moon being close to the horizon, where it can be measured against familiar objects such as trees and houses, making you want to reach out and pluck it like a ripe fruit.

Plenty try with their cameras. My dinner guests were no exception, rushing inside to get their phones for a quick snap. The moon’s beauty though, is not easily captured. It exists in relationship to other – the broad sweep of the Milky Way, the round bowl of the horizon, the silhouette of bare branches against a night sky. Encounters with the moon are for the present moment only, memories that can be refreshed night after night. The moon’s cycle is one of the most obvious reminders we have that minutes and hours are not the only way one can measure time. There are slower, more circular rhythms that underpin our days and doings. Let’s not wait until the next supermoon to remember.

Claire Dunn is the author of My Year Without Matches.