In Wales, we had one of those nights where the wind kept the clouds moving over and my favourite phase of moon was on display. What do you mean you don’t have a favourite phase of the moon? Everyone should have at least one (I have two). Armed with a little camera which has so many functions I am often surprised when it hasn’t made me a cup of tea while I am using it, and a tripod which has such a nifty way of locking the legs in place that that can keep me amused for 5 minutes before I’ve even started to take pictures, I tried to capture the essence of the nocturnal scene. It was described completely and beautifully, I think, by Alfred Noyes in his poem “The Highwayman” when he wrote
“The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas”
They say a picture is worth a thousand words – well I don’t think the ones I took do justice to the ten above.
The odd thing is, I have never actually read this particular poem. It was one of my older brothers who learned it at school and recited to us one day – the exact event I don’t recall – who introduced me to that line. I have always remembered it because, I am guessing, it conjures up such a vivid picture, even for one as painfully young as I was, combining elements that were at least understandable (I must’ve known what a galleon was at that stage, although it wouldn’t have mattered. I knew what a moon was, and what a stormy sea was).
Much later still, I learned about the phases of the moon. The Universe served us a blinder when we ended up with the moon as our orbiting friend. Tides, cool space adventures and just at the right distance from the sun to produce that most wondrous of cosmic shows – an eclipse.
So, my two favourite phases of the moon are waning gibbous and waxing gibbous, almost solely because I first heard the second word as “Gibbons”, and waxing a gibbon must surely be on everyone’s bucket list. Except perhaps the wife of the guitarist in ZZ Top.
Handy Gibbous Facts #1: A gibbous moon is one of the phases of the Moon, when the size of the illuminated portion is greater than half but not a full Moon. So, in response to the question “Do you want another beer?” you could reply “I’m OK thanks, my drink is gibbous.”
Handy Gibbous Facts #2: The word gibbous comes from the Latin gibbus, meaning “hump or hunch”. You can make your own jokes up for that.