It was a cold and snowy day here along the river. Temperatures barely made it into the low twenties, and from mid-morning on, snow flurried and swirled—light, airy stuff that floated more than it fell, and gave the illusion it was far more serious and substantial than the end results deposited on the ground later proved.
At best, we received no more than a half-inch dusting…and that's being generous. But to look out the window and see the air filled in thick, scintillating white, you'd have sworn you were witnessing a major blizzard. Often I couldn't make out the far bank of the river; sometimes I could barely see the big sycamore at the end of the yard.
Birds massed around the feeders all day, occasionally squabbling for position on the wire mesh holding the gallon of sunflower seeds. The seed level lowered fast, too, like sand pouring out of an hourglass. Every time I looked up, it was down another inch. I'll have to remember to top them all up again tomorrow morning when I go out to scatter corn for the ground feeders and check the blocks in the suet cages.
The day actually began clear and sunny. Just after breakfast, I stepped onto the front deck to look at the river and saw the waning Cold Moon—also a blue moon, since it was the second full moon of December, full on New Year's eve—now making its way down to the horizon. For a while, the bright moon, already substantially reduced from its spherical glory, seemed to get tangled in the tops of the big trees on the island across from the cottage.
There is some argument about the proper definition of a blue moon. The most popular in current usage is that any time a month has a second full moon, that second full moon is a blue moon. Before 1946, however, until a writer in the magazine Sky & Telescope made an wrong assumption leading to a calculation error, which appeared in a published article, a blue moon was reckoned by season. Since seasons normally have three full moons—one per month—whenever the lunar cycles (slightly shorter than the average duration of a month) provided an extra—fourth—full moon during a season, that extra moon was the blue moon.
Who's right? Either way, we end up with a blue moon about once ever 2.7 years. The Old Farmer's Almanac, founded in 1792 and considered by many the final arbitrator of such matters, says the original seasonal definition ought to be renewed. I tend to agree. Why should an editorial mistake be allowed to change such things?
The safe ground is say the thirteenth moon in any calendar year is a blue moon.