Admire the supermoon and taste a 'bimulous night'

Grab your aspiring astronomer and head outside: There's a supermoon! 

Because the moon's orbit has an elliptical shape, sometimes it is closer to Earth than other times. Astronomers call the closest-to-Earth moment the perigee. And what makes Nov. 14 special is that the moon "becomes full within about two hours of perigee -- arguably making it an extra-super moon," NASA has said.

In short: a supermoon occurs when a full moon happens as the moon is also closest to Earth.

Early this morning gave us the closest supermoon since 1948. Tonight will offer another good chance to view it.

The moon won't come this close to Earth again until 2034 -- when my 3-year-old can legally drink. 

We've simply told her that the moon will come the closest to Earth today. She grasps that concept and was psyched because it meant she got to stay up late last night.

We drew from one of my favorite children's books to add a little magic to the night: "When The Sky Is Like Lace" by Elinor Lander Horwitz.

I'm always trying to incorporate books into daily life, and this book published by Islandport Press set the script for a night of imaginative wonder as we walked to a nearby pond and moon-gazed. It was named The New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year in 1975, described as "an original creation which survives on the power of its mood. Imaginative children with their own night fantasies may well blend this vision with their dreams." 

When you read this book to a preschooler, you can see it light up their imagination. It's a perfect marriage between gorgeous, almost haunting illustrations by legendary Maine artist Barbara Cooney and lyrical, fantastical text -- the kind that understands the intelligence of its youngest readers and gives them room to interpret. 

The book begins by introducing a made-up word, defined in broad strokes. 

"On a bimulous night, the sky is like lace," it states. 

A bimulous night is rare, we learn. It's when "everything is strange-splendid and plum-purple." It's when otters sing and eucalyptus trees sway and the grass looks like "gooseberry jam" and "feels like the velvet inside a very old violin case." 

The first time I read this to my 3-year-old she took to it immediately and started using the word "bimulous" to adorable effect -- l's not being her specialty.

In fact, she calls it "that bimulous night book." 

The book beckons young readers to slip outside at night in pajamas, wide-eyed and wonder-filled. (I love the three sisters' matching white nightgowns.) 

The book lays out specific rules for bimulous nights with just the right degree of nonsense and detail to satisfy a preschooler. 

"You never know" -- in other words, anything is possible.

Maria ate up these rules. She loved being taken so seriously, entrusted with such serious instructions. 

We adhered to the rules last night. 

Spaghetti was on the menu, and we let Maria pour some pineapple juice onto it.

The thing is, nothing really had to happen for Maria to be thrilled by our nighttime voyage. She imagined it. We heard a rustle in the trees. Pretended to see the flickering light of a fairy. And soon, the line between real and imagined blurred, and we tiptoed into her favorite space: fantasy land.

 


 Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and two young girls (and one on the way!) in Inver Grove Heights. Write her at christina@mnparent.com.