Terry Gleason called me last night with a simple request and a hidden agenda.
"Would you go outside and look at the snow and tell me what color it is? Oh, and same with the moon. Then call me back and I will tell you what this is about."
So I bundled up and went crunch-crunching up to our orchard field, following my breath. I expected 'blue' to be the answer, but that's not what I saw. Standing beneath a slightly overcast sky, the moon and I eyed one another for several minutes. The snow around me was slightly pink, the moon a yellowish pink, with lavender undertones. I kept looking for blue, but it just wasn't there.
Back inside, I called in my report to Terry, whose reaction was a tempered approval. He had seen the same thing, though his dominant color was yellow. This was also what he saw on the previously very clear night before.
"So what's the deal, Terry?"
"As you know, I have been looking at full moons all my life, and especially in the winter. It has been a few years since we had snow cover and a full moon, and with the recent arctic air, I expected to see the familiar blue tint. You know, arctic air is the cleanest air we get. But the colors I saw are not about clean. There is something else in the air."
This is speculative, yes, but as with much of the color in our skies, we all know some of it is due to pollution. In the most recent (Jan/Feb) edition of Mother Jones Magazine, there appeared an article on China's rapid industrial growth: "The Last Empire. " Within this lengthy and disturbing description of China's poor environmental record, there stood out one report on a massive sand storm in 2001, a direct result of desertification, rising up over Inner Mongolia, and parts of this sand reaching as far east as Maine, Georgia, and even the Canary Islands.
I guess the point of my bringing this up is that we need to be vigilantly mindful of our shared interest in the health of our small planet. For Terry, his observation was innocent enough, with no expectations. But as we compared notes, the tone of our conversation turned to a sense of loss.
Every time we anticipate our migrant spring warblers, thrushes, vireos, tanagers, are we simultaneously anticipating less? Was our cold winter moon yellow with foreign particulates floating between us? I encourage anyone reading this little article to seek out the Mother Jones issue, and decide for yourself.