High Valley Lunacy

The full moon where I live, at 7500 feet (2500 meters more or less) away from city lights, is so bright you really can read by it.

Last night, while the reflected light of the sun blasted through my windows, I thought of my masters thesis, not it, exactly, but some of the things I read so I could write it. My thesis is on the fiction and poetry of a 19th century lady’s magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book. Its editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, is one of the women “rehabilitated” by the feminist movement. My relationship with her and her work goes back way before that and I’m glad. I believe it gave her the chance to ‘speak’ to me without any political filter.

One of the most popular topics for poetry — judging by the magazine — was the moon and mythology around the moon. There are, in the hundred or so magazines I read through (and indexed), monthly (ha ha) poems about the moon itself, or a moon goddess, or the love story between Endymion and Selene, maybe inspired by Keats’ poem; maybe not. I don’t know. I do not, cannot, live in the minds or time of the women who sent their poetry to Mrs. Hale hoping to be published. I believe that poems about the moon ran second in number to poems about death.

The moon wakes me up, and lying awake I think, “Put something over the window that blocks out the light, idiot.” It really would be that easy but I haven’t done it and I doubt I will because, well, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”


3 thoughts on “High Valley Lunacy

  1. I have seen the moon like that when I lived in a rural valley in Vermont. Because I was between two (we call them) mountains here (much smaller than yours) the moon was only up for a narrow window of time, but it really shone, especially with a snow cover to reflect the light back.

    I share with you your inability to imagine the women who wrote for Godey’s. I can imagine why they wrote of the moon and death, since they were probably the only things they dared write about before the feminists. My mother and aunt were born in the first decade of the 20th century, and I still had difficulty imagining their childhood. My grandmother never voted, although she was alive when women got the vote. She just never felt comfortable doing it, and died in the early 40s.

    Imagine, if you will, that we have come through a similar growth and advancement. When we were little, things like civil rights were still on the horizon, as were abortion, gay rights and gay marriage. I remember how shocked my parents were, and excited, when Russia put Sputnik up. The women three generations on will see us as dinosaurs too, I hope, if the world survives that long..

    • You’re right! My grandmother was a professional woman (secretary) and kept working after marriage. My other grandmother was a frontier woman and a Mennonite and had 10 kids. I don’t know if she voted or not. I imagine so as my grandfather’s philosophy was that anything a man could do a woman could do. My grandad was born in 1870 and my Mennonite grandma in 1884.

      But Sarah Hale was a really wise woman. She understood her audience so well. She organized women’s groups that built Bunker Hill National Monument and Mt. Vernon. She did all this without ever pissing anyone off. She is responsible for the existence of a National Thanksgiving Day. Her magazine was the first to publish exclusively American writers and Poe was the literary editor for 5 years in the 1840s. Every issue had at least one story about spousal abuse as a result of a husband’s alcoholism. She was on the pulse of her time and really changed this country. She was one of the voices that inspired Louis Vassar to start Vassar College and that got Elizabeth Blackwell into medical school. She also wrote Mary Had a Little Lamb and what’s considered to have been the first anti-slavery novel. I came to regard her as a free woman and someone to emulate.

      As for voting, did you get my email?

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