A Super Moonstruck Birthday

© 2014 Jackson Gillman

September 10, 2014

Ever heard of a Supermoon? I hadn’t until this year. It is technically a perigee-syzygy when a full moon coincides with its closest orbit to the earth. It’s fun to say, too. Try it: pear’-a-gee sizz’-a-gee. The next one won’t be until September 28, 2015. But this past one, not only looked bigger and brighter, it was -- 12% bigger and 30% brighter -- and it coincided with my September 9 birthday. How cool is that?

Actually it was a lovely, warm evening when I set out rowing in Avian, the nutshell pram that took me fifteen years to finish building (see earlier web story, "News in/of a Nutshell" at http://jacksongillman.com/astory_nutshell.html). I named the boat after my children, Avery and Jillian, and feel that Avian has a nice winging air to it.

My family asked me how I’d like to celebrate my birthday. My request was to continue what would have been a three-year tradition of rowing the Gill/Mann clan to Eastwind Lobster for dinner. But Avery didn't want to put down his latest fantasy fiction book and Jillian wouldn't be home from soccer at a reasonable time to make the salty schlep. I'd hardly been out on the boat this summer and had my heart set on going for a row. As luck would have it, there was another very timely option.

At the Onset post office, I’d seen a flyer for a Full Moon Beach Yoga planned for that very evening. I only dabble in yoga but it sounded like a great alternative. So after a Jillian-less dinner, I towed Avian in its dolly three blocks down Maple Street. It’s easier to load and unload with two people, so my wife helped me put in. Before I left, my cautious and super-sensible wife reminded me to be sure to pull the boat up far because the tide would still be coming in. How stupid does she think I am? She ticks me off sometimes. I had already taken all the precautions necessary, checked the map for a location I'd never been, had my life preserver, knew the weather and tides; all looked good. Sounds like the beginning of a disaster story, huh? Well, read on...

It was an absolutely delightful evening. At dusk, the water was dead calm, except for some fish jumping out of the water snagging insects. Something bigger and louder surfaced nearby and I was surprised by a hardy evening swimmer. I greeted him with a "Great night for a swim!"

Every time I pass underneath the Stone Bridge, I sing out to enjoy the reverberating echo: Row row row my boa... whoa... whoa...whoa...whoat.

I arrived on time in the vicinity of the advertised beach location but didn't know exactly where the yoga would be taking place. I beached the pram and even though high tide wouldn’t be for a couple more hours, I pulled it up past what was obviously the previous high tide mark with its thick line of seaweed. Further down the beach, I saw where a score of women were gathering for Full Moon Yoga. I considered getting back in the boat and rowing a bit closer, but decided to keep a low profile and quietly staked out a spot to lay my beach towel.

The instructor, Beth, had us settle in and focus on our breath. I realized how long it had been since I'd taken "cleansing breaths." Aside from the slightly noxious fumes from the Tiki lamps, the evening was just what the Medicine Doctor ordered. As Beth went on with the exercises and instructions, she waxed philosophic about the moon. People often complain about the sun being too hot, there being too much rain, or it being too windy. But no one ever gripes about the moon -- it is always a welcome presence, a friend. In our lives, we should try to embody moon energy and reflect our best selves. What a sweet thought to ponder. For better grounding, I chose to stand directly on the sand, rather than on my towel. When instructed to lay my third eye to the earth, I palpably felt muscular and inner tensions just melt away, absorbed into the sand. Ahhh.... grounded. What a great idea this was.

When the class was over, I gathered my towel, bag and life preserver and walked to where I had beached Avian, only to find no Avian. Had Avian sprouted wings and flown away? I had left the oars in it -- did someone row off with it?

Well, one of the characteristics of a Supermoon, is that they create super tides. Sure enough, in less than 90 minutes, the tide had surpassed the previous high water mark and Avian could be seen floating in the shallows. No problem, I'll just wade out and get it. Whoa, the shallows aren't so shallow. How deep is it out there? There were several other boats upside down on the shore. Maybe I could just borrow one and retrieve mine. And with what to paddle or row? I know -- I'll just go up to one of the nearby houses with the lights still on and ask for assistance. No, that would be a hassle, not to mention embarrassing. Hmm.

Inspired by the swimmer I had seen earlier, I thought -- I'll just swim out and get it. There are streetlights on but no one is around. Off come all my clothes. Having learned from experience, I park them higher up the beach. I find it odd that though the tide is coming in, my boat is visibly floating farther out. Being a wimp when it comes to cold water, I usually take my time going in but I can see that the longer I wait, the further out I'll have to swim. Will I be able to get in the boat, or tow it back to get my clothes? I imagine the headline: The Washed-up Chameleon's Last Birthday Swim (in his birthday suit!). Hey, it's only 30 yards or so. Yes or no? Too much thinking. It’s time for action. I can do this. It's simple and the water isn't even that... cold.

It really wasn't and I wasted no more time getting in. While I’m swimming, I start thinking again. I'd worn my life preserver during the row here even though the water was dead calm. Shouldn't I be wearing it now that I'm actually in the water? I would insist that my kids have flotation in a situation like this. Actually, I recently had to read the riot act to my daughter -- never go swimming alone, and always tell someone your plans when you go out on the water.Those are the rules! I have a cell phone, but the last person I am going to tell my plans to is my super-sensible wife who explicitly told me to be careful when beaching the boat. She especially ticks me off when she’s right!

Am I gaining on it yet? It didn't take that long to reach the SS Avian, but now the task of side stroking it back to the beach. I get to a place where I could reach the bottom and tow it back to shore. Phew! I towel dry and I'm not even chilled. I imagine my stark naked self reflected in my friend, the Supermoon. I'm feeling refreshed; Supermanly in fact. That was an adventure!

Now I call my wife and say nothing more than that I'm on my way home, and please meet me back at the dolly in about a half hour.

I cast off and maneuver through several moored boats and hit an open stretch of water. I'm into the rhythm of rowing now. Canadian geese are winging under the light of the full moon, honking happy birthday! I honk back. If you’re happy and you know it give a HONK! What a fabulous night! I start singing a favorite rowing song: *Oh give me a boat on the ocean, give me a boat on the sea, give me a boat on the ocean, let peace like a tide come rolling to me... CRASH! I broadside a moored boat that I swear came out of nowhere. Anyway, at a mere few knots, no harm done. I should pay more attention, though.

Near the bridge, a couple is fishing. “Caught anything yet?” “No, we just started started.” “I’ve seen some fishing jumping out of the water, maybe mackerel.” “Yeah, and we hope there’s some bigger fish going after them.” "Sorry if I disturbed you." "Not at all. Have a nice row." I am having a great row -- back to the rhythm, back to the singing. **Take up your oars, row steady and strong, let this sky dreaming last all the night long, the supermoon shines ‘tween the sea and the stars and it’s row your rowboat, row... whoa... whoa... whoa. Lest one think that my earlier crash was an isolated incident -- BAM! I collide with a channel marker for good measure.

What have I learned from my Supermoon birthday bash? I sure could use a superman's sonar or eyes in the back of my head. Hey, cars have rear view mirrors -- shouldn't a rowboat have a front view mirror on the stern? In lieu of that, perhaps I should at install a rubber bumper on the bow? No matter, Avian is unflappable and so am I. You know -- if the evening had gone any smoother, it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. As I said earlier, and again to my wife when she wondered: “Why is your hair wet?” "It was a great night for a swim!" It really was. So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

*song by Daria Fiske, **song by Aileen Vance with Supermoon tweak by Jackson Gillman


I typically post photos with my web stories but have none of this adventure from which I chalked up a lot of experience. Speaking of chalk, I’ll segue into a family endeavor that does have some photos.

This is the first summer since Jillian was born that we weren't able to vacation on Mount Desert Island as a family. Just too much going on. One good thing about still being in Onset is what we got to do in mid-August. Earlier in the summer, the Cape Cod Canal celebrated its centennial with fireworks shot off the Bourne train bridge and from barges. Jillian and I created this facsimile in about 30 minutes for our entry into Onset's “Chalk-Full-O-Fun” Street Painting Festival. It was a very fun collaboration and we were pretty darn proud of ourselves, and looking forward to next year’s!

Jackson and his chalk drawing

More photos were taken the next day, but unfortunately after someone thought it appropriate to drive over our Bourne Bridge, smearing our fireworks in the process. Avery's, however, fared better...

Jackson and Jillian's chalked art - after being run over Avery's abstract chalk art


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