The old Blue Moon

BLUE MOON is now available as an e-book.  This gives me the chance to remember writing the novel, to be filled with all the emotions of the time.  The words "Blue Moon," as well as referring to the celestial phenomenon of two full moons during the same calendar month, is also the name of the old blood-and-booze soaked honky tonk section of Newport, Rhode Island.  My grandmother first told me about it--she was a "good girl," but as a young woman she and her boyfriend (who became my grandfather) were known to visit the Blue Moon district to meet their friends, cause some mischief, and dance up a storm.

I started writing the novel late one fall, when the weather had turned cold and storms had started down from Labrador, while driving in my car one day, I heard a radio report of a local fishing boat missing.  The Coast Guard search began, continued over Thanksgiving, and was about to be called off when flares were sighted.   Suddenly there was hope...but then the rumors began, that the flares had been set off by other fishing boats, doing anything they could to keep the search going.

That kind of love and loyalty hit me hard.  I decided to write about a family fishing business in Mount Hope (aka Newport) Rhode Island.  The  Keating clan owned a fleet of boats, then sold the catch at Lobsterville, their wharfside restaurant.   There are three generations of Keatings, all with their own loves, hardships, secrets, and joys.    I love that family still, and feel as if they're my own.

I  hope you'll download BLUE MOON and meet the Keatings.  Billy and Cass, married 10 years and with 3 kids, were known as "the batteries" --their attraction to each other  was so strong--and  I think I've gotten more reader mail about a certain scene in Billy's truck in a grocery store parking lot than for many other books combined--but who says married couples can't have fun too?

Sheila, the matriarch, is still in love with her husband, in spite of the fact he's been dead for years now, and she never stops dreaming of another dance at the old Blue Moon with him.

My kind of love.

phases of the moon

   

 

the crescent moon

cut deep this month.  she died the day

the waxing crescent swung low

through the cedars.

i must have grieved through the half moon

i don't  remember.

mourning erases memory, sweeps it into clouds.

she lives in my dreams

or whenever my eyes are closed.

tonight the moon is full

let it bring her back to me.

every new thing i see without her

a milestone beyond bearing.

september full moon

bring her back to me.

 

 

 

 

if it's the june full moon, it must be love

tomorrow night aboard merci the o's will sail to napatree

where on the silver sands they'll see

a sight as ancient as the sea.

for at high tide, every june,

on nights approaching the full moon,

horseshoe crabs crawl up the dune,

mate, then swim away post-swoon.

 

 

Music of the Spheres

I am hearing the Music of the Spheres this week before Christmas.  On Tuesday there was a full moon, full lunar eclipse, and Winter Solstice, all at once.  How could such events, especially during the holidays, fail to turn each of us into a mystic? Musica universalis--Pythagoras said "There is geometry in the humming of the strings.  There is music in the spacing of the spheres."  It's a harmonic philosophy regarding celestial bodies, space among the sun, moon, and planets.

Maybe it's because my mother told us that if we were very still and quiet on Christmas Eve, we could hear angels singing--the only night of the year that was possible.  Of course that was a bold attempt to settle us down, wild with excitement for Christmas morning, but even as young children we felt the deeper meaning.

Everyone feels the holidays in their own way.  For me Christmas is inseparable from my mother; after a very long illness, when she was constantly dying, the time finally came.  Her final death started in mid-December.  The doctor and a priest charged me with telling her what was happening.  I remember sitting by my mother's bed at the nursing home, informing her that she was going to die.

She got really mad at me, and refused to speak to me for a week.  I'd go see her, and she'd turn her head to the wall.  I found a small tree and decorated it with lights and our family ornaments, irridescent balls decorated with twinkling snow, dating back to my grandmother's turn-of-the-century childhood.  I brought her Scottish Terrier, Gelsey, to visit her.  I introduced her to my new tiger kitten, Maggie.

No response.

Then, finally, one night I was sitting by her bed in the dark, with only the tree lights illuminating her small room.  I looked over at her, and saw her staring at me--intensely, as if she was trying to memorize me.  Her mouth moved--I read her lips: "I love you."

"I love you, too, Mom."

I held her hand, and we looked at each other for a long time.  She slipped in and out, but talked to me when she could.  The cold shoulder was forgotten.  Having fought so hard for so long, she really didn't want to let go.  It was a case of "blame the messenger," but that's okay.  I understand, and am all the more grateful for our last few days together.  She died soon afterwards, on January 2, 1995.

Music of the spheres.

Love the planet, love the moon, love the sky, love each other, love what is and not what you would have it to be, love music, love the beasts, love yourself.  Peace on earth.  Or as Peter Lehner of NRDC says, Peace With the Earth.

I have quoted this section from Shakespeare many times, on this site and in essays I have written--it speaks to me for so many reasons.  Today, I'm hearing the "heavenly music" line...

From the Tempest, Act V, Scene I:

I have bedimm'd The noontide sun, call'd forth the mutinous winds, And 'twixt the green sea and the azured vault Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder Have I given fire and rifted Jove's stout oak With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory Have I made shake and by the spurs pluck'd up The pine and cedar: graves at my command Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let 'em forth By my so potent art. But this rough magic I here abjure, and, when I have required Some heavenly music, which even now I do, To work mine end upon their senses that This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff, Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, And deeper than did ever plummet sound I'll drown my book.

Solemn music

Secret path

Hidden paths don't reveal themselves often.  They're best when you stumble upon one far from home, away from the familiar.  Taking a walk you might catch sight of of a shadowy opening, calling you to duck through a canopy of interlocked branches, or through an up-island gorse-covered dune Do you accept the invitation, follow the path?  I've done that many times.  They've led to buried treasure.  Not pirate's gold, but beautiful sights I wouldn't otherwise have seen.

On Swan's Island, Maine, through the thickest pine forest, the almost invisible narrow path paved with soft, golden needles, leading to a private crescent beach.

In Normandy, uphill through an apple orchard, to the crest with a view of wildflower fields, once painted by Boudin and Monet, sloping down to the English Channel.  Other byways through gardens, Impressionist landscapes filled with light and flowers.

In Ireland, in Youghal, following a path within sight of the River Blackwater, coming upon a medieval church dating back to St. Declan and the year 450.

Another day in East Cork, the Ballycotton Cliff Walk, a steep climb from the road, leads along the coast, high above the sea, with views of small islands grazed by sheep and goats, sea birds including terns and fulmars riding the air currents, white gannets plunging down into the rough blue sea, and the Old Head of Kinsale shimmering in the distance.  That walk, and a day spent in Kinsale, provided much inspiration for The Silver Boat.

Our own Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island, a mystical experience every time I take it, whether on a brilliant September day, or a snowy December dusk, or the hottest August morning.  Cliff Walk has figured in at least three novels of mine (Angels All Over Town, What Matters Most, The Geometry of Sisters) and probably more...  It hugs the coast for ten miles, past mansions of the gilded age on one side, the wild Atlantic on the other, through tunnels, past Marble House's Chinese Tea House.

Perhaps most dear to me, and not at all far from home: the secret path in all my Hubbard's Point novels, leading to a hidden beach where people fall in love and pick beach plums to make tea and jelly and see shooting stars and take midnight swims under the full moon's silver light.

(Painting by Claude Monet, Garden Path at Giverny.)