There’s something uniquely special about the full moon when you’re at sea. You don’t know dark until you’ve been in the middle of the ocean, in the middle of a dark night.

Then the moon finally emerges. Its light reflects off the swells, creating path of shimmery white that stretches across the water, pointing the way to our solitary satellite.

Did you know there’s a word for that light? Moonlight reflecting on water? Not just one word, in fact, but two: Moonglade and Moonwake. Take your pick.

Moonwake
Personally, I prefer moonwake. I like that it brings to mind an image of the moon itself sailing on the seas, creating a wake made of light. It’s appropriately nautical.

I didn’t pick the date of this cruise so I had nothing to do with the fact that I get to watch the eclipse from the back of a giant cruise ship on its way to Mexico.

People come and go as I sit and watch. Their numbers cresting in sync with the announcements over ship’s PA system suggesting that the Serenity deck, where I’ve parked myself, is the perfect place to view the eclipse. Then dipping again when the biting wind reminds everyone that is still January. It’s cold enough that I’ve wrapped myself in a thick towel, borrowed from the hot tub area, also on the Serenity deck.

Cold as it is, the wind is welcome. Without it, the clouds would be too dense to see the moon at all. It’s a necessary part of this experience, if not exactly the experience I was hoping for.

I don’t even know what this experience means to me. I know I like such things… eclipses, meteor showers, finding constellations, spotting mars or Venus in the night sky, but those are just observation. Where is the greater meaning? When does observing become an Observance?

I have a thing about words. They are powerful and intricate things, and often subtle in their variation.

Observation:
noun
1. an act or instance of noticing or perceiving.
2. an act or instance of regarding attentively or watching.
3. the faculty or habit of observing or noticing.

 

Observance:
noun
1. a keeping or celebration by appropriate procedure, ceremonies, etc.
2. a procedure, ceremony, or rite, as for a particular occasion
3. a rule or custom to be followed or obeyed; a customary practice.

Practically the same word yet one is rather mundane and one carries the weight of the sacred. Not that I’m knocking the mundane here. Ask my husband what my super power is and he is likely to say “noticing stuff”. I am a Noticer. The one that spots the changes, the finder of lost mustard bottles on the wrong shelf of the fridge.

(He also might say “super reflexes” as I’m also the one who can catch a glass I’ve just knocked over before all the water spills out. But that talent is someone negated by the fact that I’m also the klutz who knocked over the water in the first place.)

But back to the subject, at some point you have to do something with all the stuff you notice, which is kinda what I’m doing here with this blog, distilling my observations, research and experience into Observance.

Later this year I’m going to be on a ship again. This time it will be off the coast of Alaska, and this time it will be for Litha the Summer Equinox. I also did not pick the dates for that cruise, yet for the second time in one year through absolutely no planning or forethought of my own, I’ll be on a ship in the Pacific Ocean observing an important astronomical event.

Once is happenstance, twice a coincidence… I can’t afford to make it a pattern, so my shipboard adventures into astronomical observations will likely end at coincidence, but what a lovely and meaningful coincidence it is.