Howling at the Moon

My growing fascination with the moon, my collaboration with Deborah Batterman, and our recent field trip to The California Wolf Center, have me pondering the moon as a muse. I realize there is no novelty here; my epiphany is mundane.

Yet I’m still enamored, still fascinated by the rocky, dusty, uninhabited ball that is a mere 2,000 miles in diameter, with a tiny circumference of 6,800 miles. Earth is about four times the size. Yet, according to Gail Gibbons in The Moon Book, the moon has been revered for countless centuries; thought to be a goddess, Diana, to the Romans–Selene to the Greeks. Selene was even thought to ride through the sky in a silver chariot. Gibbons says, “Some American Indian tribes believed the moon and sun were brother and sister gods.” Clearly I am not alone with my fascination.

Last Friday at the preserve, when I was reminded that myths and beliefs about wolves are generally wrong, I was disappointed to realize that wolves also do not actually howl at the moon. I like how a wolf looks when she is howling, when the snout is pointing up toward the sky, presumably responding to the power of the moon. I’ve been known to try it myself when the neighbors are in deep REM sleep. So it is not without a bit of mourning that I give up this long-held assumption about wolves and the moon. In fact, since they howl for scads of other reasons, a teensy part of me still believes that wolves feel and respond to the unmistakable pull of the moon; fulfilling some deep, ancestral longing by howling at it.

I’ve decided that the moon-as-muse idea works well when I consider that more than four centuries ago, in 1609, Galileo gave us the first sketches of the moon (there is a fascinating JPL scientist, Jane Houston Jones, who has been sketching the moon for about 20 years) and later was condemned by the Catholic Church for “vehement suspicion of heresy” (since his discoveries contradicted the church’s stated beliefs). The fact that he had to sacrifice his freedom over his beliefs about the cosmos; eventually being forced to recant some of them, leads me to believe that it is not a stretch to say that the moon may also have been his muse.

When I was seven or eight, my father briefly lived on a La Jolla cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Sleeping in the massive downstairs living room with the giant windowed slider slightly open, I would fall asleep to the lulling timbre of the sea; the moon often reflecting its unique manifestation of the sun’s light onto the roiling water. My fascination grew into a craving…the kind that nothing else can fulfill. And now, with my muse finally refusing to be ignored, it all makes sense. Tonight you may find me, and a few mythical wolves, howling at the moon.

Words and photographs are the creation and property of the author/photographer, Britton Minor and The Jaded Lens Photography.

20 thoughts on “Howling at the Moon

  1. Nice meditation on wolves and their power for you. My muse? If it was part of nature it would be the sea. Fireseed One deals a lot with the ocean, and I loved writing about it. More often, my muses are my favorite writing instructors, who are both men! I have their photos tacked in front of my writing space. They seem to be saying, uh huh, go on, tell me more, and tell it to me in the most lyrical and compelling way you know how.

    1. Thank you Catherine. I have some human muses as well–and will also be putting their pictures up for inspiration.

      I have been sneak-reading pages of Uvi’s and your book – because I have committed to finishing other works I’ve started. I love your writing…and the story is so unique!

  2. I like your interpretation of the moon as muse. I think of it as an old friend who has watched over me every night of my life. I love how you wove in the observations of the wolves and I, too, will continue to believe that they howl at the moon. Lovely piece, Britton.

  3. When I was a child, I chose the career of astronaut for my imaginary friend’s father. My fascination with the moon still remains intact. Years earlier, I’d traveled there myself and had returned to earth to tell my story. I described it all to my Aunt Beulah in vivid detail, how this distant landscape in outer space was overgrown with tangled vines and wild roses of every color. And contrary to popular belief, its surface consisting of green cheese was no myth at all, but was as real as the speckled linoleum on the kitchen floor. My aunt was shocked that anyone could fabricate such a boldface lie. She even reported the incident to my mother to preempt any further such tale telling. But her efforts obviously didn’t pay off. Clearly, my muse is the moon too 😉

  4. Thank you Debra. I LOVE the story–I wish that your aunt could have confirmed your writing and story-telling gift, but it looks like that has not stopped you!

  5. Oh my, you howled at the moon while your neighbours were in deep sleep! There’s a romantic & funny streak in you, Britton. These two weeks or so, after reading your posts on the moon, your glowing pictures of it, and Deborah’s ivory words, I’ve become more watchful of the crescent/moon outside my window. I love the moon. I’ve always loved it. I was born at night, so I like to think there’s a bond between us. 🙂

    *The picture of the wolf is gorgeous.

  6. My muse is elusive and ever-changing. (That’s a poetic way of saying I have no clue what my muse looks like.) But I love your muses! And that story about your aunt, Debra, yikes! All of my imaginary friends were indescribable beings with no occupation. Layabouts and lollygaggers, all.

    1. I wanted to have a muse for so long–and I actually thought it would be a person. And I’ve since discovered that human muses do abound–especially in our writing group. The inspiration I receive from my fellow writers is priceless. I like also having a “natural” muse or two for when I am needing to connect with Mother Earth–feeling as if someone or some thing wants or needs to speak through my thoughts/fingers.

  7. I always loved looking at the moon from my childhood bedroom’s window. sometimes I wish I could have lived there. Man, the kids in the neighborhood would have been jealous. My natural muse is the ocean. I feel the pull often and I just love watching it do its magic. And I love wolves also. Lovely piece, as usual. elizabeth

  8. I don’t know what it is about the moon (or maybe I do;-) but there are times I’ll be driving with my husband, at night, and the moon catches me by surprise and I let out what I might think of (after reading your wonderful post) as a howl: ‘oh my god, did you see that moon?’ Yes, my exuberance can get the best of me. And I take it as a very special quirk of timing when the full moon follows me to some special place I’m vacationing. Not that I take things too personally, but I think that very beautiful wolf is looking right at me. And I love those moon sketches by Jane Houston Jones.

  9. a lovely post. I’m certain i have all too many moon references in my poems, but perhaps it’s there for we who write…. thanks a million for reading so much of me, Britton. xxxj

    1. Thank you, Jenne–reading your work is a treat. I always feel like I’ve snuck in under the door where the real writers live, that I am masquerading with the greats to get a bit of sustenance and a bum’s sackful of inspiration!

  10. We but have to look at a full moon to be inspired! I don’t know what it is that makes it so special, but I feel a renewed sense of creativity and energy after a night of moon gazing. As a child, my mother always told my sisters and I stories about the moon and I continued the tradition with my children. Yes, the moon is special! 🙂

    1. Yes, Bella, the moon’s magical touch. Perhaps there is a moon-lovers writing conference in our future…shall we plan one?

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