Back West you will experience a total lunar eclipse but it's not visible where I am. Here's one of my favorite moon songs. Relax as the late, great Harry Nilson sings "Lazy Moon," the first track on his great album, "A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night." Let that gentle voice wash over you..... The song was originally performed, in blackface, by Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy, in 1931.
Well, I've made it through the first month of the fall semester -- an especially busy month due to the abrupt departure of the only other Western English teacher -- and it's time for a week's holiday. The Chinese use our "school starts the first week in September" calendar but have retained their centuries-old Mid-Autumn Festival which falls at this time of year, as well as commemorating the founding of the Communist regime on October 1st with several days off.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is based on the lunar calendar, so it coincides with the full harvest moon. We had a high of 85 degrees F in Zibo today, so it sure doesn't feel like mid-Autumn, but that's what they call it.
The traditional activity for this festival is for the family to gather together (the full moon symbolizes unity and family togetherness).
Mooncakes come with many different fillings, from duck egg to fruit, flower and nut. Some taste kind of like a fig newton, that should give you the idea. My thoughtful friends and colleagues haven't forgotten me during this festival of family togetherness and I've been gifted with many moon cakes which in addition to being pretty themselves, are often beautifully and elaborately packaged. I had so many I was able to share them with the international students that live in my dormitory. Most are from Kazakhstan.
Most of the local students have left the campus and gone home for a few days. At times like this, the campus resounds with the sounds of luggage wheels clicking across the pavement, and licensed and unlicensed taxis swarm around the gates. But peace descended tonight.
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I hopped on my bike around 8:00 pm to go contemplate the moon from the overpass between the two campuses. Really, the skies are often so hazy around here that we can't see the moon well, so a visible full moon is an Event.
It was a lovely evening with a slight breeze. The local farmers were hard at work in the moonlight, gathering up the corn kernels they had been drying on the pavement.
Looking At The Moon And Thinking Of One Far Away
The moon, grown full now over the sea,
Brightening the whole of heaven,
Brings to separated hearts
The long thoughtfulness of night….
It is no darker though I blow out my candle.
It is no warmer though I put on my coat
So I leave my message with the moon
And turn to my bed, hoping for dreams
-- Zhang Jiuling, (675-740 AD) translated here
One of the traditions of Mid-Autumn Festival, I've read, is to declaim some classical Chinese poetry, such as the poem at right.
Poor Zhang Jiuling lived long before the age of Skype, when separated hearts could have regular conversations. Like this:
Hello? Hello? I can hardly hear you.
You're frozen. Try turning your video off.
So thanks to Skype and thanks to the warm-hearted people of Zibo, in all honesty I can't say that I feel like Zhang Jiuling, though thousands of miles away from all my family members.