As I stood at Pittock Mansion last night to photograph the Blue Moon rising near Mt. Hood I was entertained by a variety of people questioning the origin of the term “blue moon”. At one point a gal walked away from her group in a bit of a huff declaring that “it’s stupid, it’s NOT blue”. Yeah, she’s right. Our local weather guy explained that the second full moon in a month is properly called a blue moon. I carried that information with me to the Mansion and offered it up when asked if I knew why it was called a blue moon. I like to think that I sounded scholarly.. at least I did not hesitate to offer the explanation. Everyone seemed content. Why not?
I just googled “blue moon” and looked at the definition or origin in Wikipedia. They say that the third full moon of a season with four full moons is referred to a blue moon. Historically, a “season” had four full moons. To get two of four full moons in a single month is a fairly rare event but does not help to explain how it got the name in the first place. Our use of the term “once in a blue moon” seems to support the notion of rarity and also reinforces that the term “blue moon” is something real and well known. Go figure. Anyway, it was entertaining to listen to people speculate how it came to be that the event we were watching was called “blue moon”.
For me, the event was special because of it’s occurrence next to Mt. Hood so close to sundown. The smoke made for disappointing results photographically but I figured it was a great way to spend the evening and to think about Neil Armstrong and the first step onto the moon. I’m confident that he was not bothered by smoke or haze as he gazed at earth from the moon. What a thrill he must have felt go up his spine as he came off the ladder. I know that my skin tingled as I watched him step down. Now, that step is a true rare event.