Marvelous Night for a Moondance

So, yesterday was the Wolf Moon. That’s the name the Native Americans gave the January full moon, because it was the time of year when wolves howled at it. (Is it wrong that the image of wolves howling at the moon now makes me think of the logo of Foxwoods casino, my dad’s happy place in Connecticut?)

The full moon in February is the Snow Moon, although it seems like nature has forgotten that, given the multitude of snow heaped on the northeast this December and January.

What I love about a full moon is the same thing I love about a festival or a snowstorm–that feeling that we’re all in it together, observing this event all at once. It’s not the rarity that matters–I love a sunset for the same reason as the above, and you could see one every day if you were lucky. It’s the way these events make you stop and take notice on their schedule, not yours, that really wows me. You can’t force any of them, no matter how impatient you are. A full moon is going to happen when it’s going to happen, not two weeks beforehand or two weeks after.

So I celebrated the Wolf Moon by going to a Moonlight Garden Tour at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, the winter home industrialist John Deering built in 1916 after his doctor told him he needed a warm-weather retreat in winter to avoid aggravating his pernicious anemia. (The photos throughout were taken during the tour; they’re just meant to give you an image of the gardens, not to illustrate the paragraphs before or after them.) Deering really took lemons (the pernicious anemia) and made lemonade (the mansion), hiring 10 percent of the population of Miami at that time to build his fabulous palazzo, complete with a formal garden, a marine garden (where sea creatures frolicked), a wild garden, a secret garden, and a dock for motorized gondolas which his guests could use to tour the islands of Biscayne Bay.

Deering sounds like just about the best host ever, given those gondolas and the stages for performances he treated his guests too. He even had a beach staff could use in their own hours (although, if he were such a great boss, maybe the staff could just swim at the real beach with the guests?). He also had a hidden door built into a garden wall so he could hide his hooch during Prohibition.

But he was a bit of  a prude, too, because he made the sculptors who created the mermaids on his gondola dock give them breast reductions once he noticed how well-endowed they were. (He would be shocked to wander around South Beach today, looking in shop windows; every fifth or so mannequin is crafted to look like she’s had a boob job, perhaps to help surgically enhanced customers see what the clothes might look like on them.)

But I’m not here to judge John Deering. (After all, maybe he wasn’t breastfed, or maybe he was and had traumatic memories of his wet nurse; the tour guide didn’t mention any details of his early childhood.) I’m here to praise him, because I love a garden that takes advantage of the waterfront views, and to praise the Vizcaya museum for creating a tour that takes advantage of the full moon, which only comes once a month.

It turns out you can reschedule a full moon observance, as long as it’s just by a day or too. On Friday (full moon plus two) we’re going to the full moon party on the beach at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach. There are drink specials and fire-eaters, but the main draw is the full moon over the ocean. I just may howl at it.

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