Today, March 20, 2019, is the vernal equinox, the beginning of astronomical spring. Tonight (which will be approximately as long as the day) there will also be a full moon, and because the moon is close to perigee, we will have a—SUPERMOON! So maybe it’s a good time for some definitions:
Perigee: Noun. Astronomy. The point in the orbit of the moon or a satellite at which it is nearest to the earth. The opposite of apogee. From French perigee, via modern Latin from Greek perigeion ‘close round the earth,’ from peri-‘around’+ge ‘earth’
Supermoon: Noun. The phenomenon whereby the moon appears particularly large in the sky owing to the coincidence of its closest approach to the earth (the perigee) with a full (or new) moon:
Syzygy: Noun. (plural syzygies). Astronomy. A conjunction or opposition, especially of the moon with the sun: the planets were aligned in syzygy. from early 17th century: via late Latin from Grteek suzugia, from suzugos ‘yoked, paired,’ from sun-‘with, together’ + the stem of zeugnunai ‘to yoke.’
Supermoon: By Irene Hoge Smith, revised at least eight times, turned down by almost three dozen journals.
Syzygy: By Irene Hoge Smith. Did not place in an essay contest.
Syzygy. By Irene Hoge Smith. Creative nonfiction essay, in Chicago Quarterly Review, Volume 28, Winter 2019.
This essay has always been my sentimental favorite. Not because it’s my very best work, or because beta readers love it so much (I will always be grateful to friends who patiently plowed through long astronomical descriptions that I was a bit over-obsessed with), but because (a) I enjoyed working on it, and (b) it was the first essay I ever submitted for publication. More than five years after beginning to write and revise “Supermoon,” (later titled “Syzygy”) this braided essay has found a home with Chicago Quarterly Review and I am so glad I kept coming back to it.
(Photos above: Supermoon over Bexley Hall at Kenyon College, 2013; CQR Winter 2019; Supermoon at Cape May New Jersey, 2015; First page of my essay in CQR; Supermoon at Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, 2015.)