Observing any thing changes the thing and the observer.
The Flower Moon that is illuminating the Memorial Day weekend skies is known as a supermoon. These full moons occur when the moon is closest to Earth in a given orbit. Despite lots of lore, super moons don’t look any different from the rest of the full moons that grace the night sky. But, gazing at a moon changes the observer and the moon itself. That’s quantum physics in a nutshell.
I grew up in an America that was defined and shaped by war. I am a baby boomer. My Uncle Francis was in the Navy during World War II. During the final days of war in the Pacific Theatre, his plane was shot down near the island Formosa, ironically named for it’s beauty. Today it’s known as Taiwan, the Republic of China, or that island state over in East Asia. My grandparents referred to this holiday weekend as Decoration Day, a special time to place flowers on the graves of heroes. It was a time to remember and savor memories of their brave, young son. Grandpa would tell me stories about Uncle Francis that always ended with, “Sometimes, I still think I’ll see him walking towards me on the driveway. Yep, he was a pretty good boy.”
Those were the 50’s, when June Cleaver defined motherhood. When the 60’s rolled through, the music changed from Perry Como’s “When the moon hit’s your eye, like a big a pizza pie, that’s Amore” to Clearwater Revival’s, “I see a bad moon a rising.” In retrospect, we were a rebellious generation who yearned for a peace we had never really known. Instead of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, we belted out, “Well it’s one, two three, what are we fighting for? I don’t give a damn, last stop is Viet Nam.” We confused hating war with disrespecting warriors.
Last week, Shawn and I were sharing Clara’s first snickerdoodle at a small cookie shop on old Main Street. A gentle man who looked to have passed his seventh decade, wearing a blue military cap came in to buy a cookie with his wife. He was delighted with Clara’s enthusiasm for making many crumbs. He said he was a proud grandpa too. Shawn stood, extended her hand to him and said, “Thank you Sir, for your service to our country.” He tipped the bill of his cap, and nodded sadly, “If only people had thought that when I returned from the war.” Viet Nam was clearly emblazoned on the cap.
The Flower Moon, close enough to inspect the rugged terrain yet too far to ever touch, is a supermoon. It gave me a clear insight about Decoration Day. My sons and daughter who were not called to serve their country, like me, and my parents and theirs, grew up in the company of heroes. Some who survived their service, blend in with the crowds, their uniforms are stored out of sight. Others who are serving stand out with their distinctive uniforms designed to blend with battle-scarred jungles, cities, and deserts.
Cat Stevens had it right. We are all “being chased by a moon shadow.” Contemplating the May 2013 full moon motivated me to learn more. To my surprise, I learned about super moons and super heroes. The Flower Moon will never be the same to me. My observation of the fifth full moon of this calendar year changed me too. My generation was not only defined by war, it was shaped by the souls of heroes. It took some of us a heck of a long time to figure that out. Baby Boomers may remember their days as Flower Children. Americans may be chased by moon shadows, but their colors will never run.