The moon is full, the air frosty, the path through the woods well-marked by yesterday’s snow. It's the second full moon of January—a blue moon—and my birthday. It’s cold, but I’ve got lots of layers on, and I’m comfortable but invigorated as I set off alone down the path. I carry no flashlight, since I have moonlight pouring through empty trees. I take in the quiet and beauty of the night, hearing only my footsteps crunching through the snow and the frozen leaf litter on the path. I’m tracing a circuit around a lake, through terrain that varies from hilly to marshy.
As I walk, I begin to wonder how many more times in my life I’ll get to see a blue moon on my birthday. Or even just a full moon. (Although, with a birthday at the end of a 31-day month, any birthday full moon for me would also be a blue moon.) It doesn’t take long for me to realize that the likelihood of my ever again enjoying a full moon on my birthday is pretty small. After all, how much longer am I likely to live? My father died at 87, just 20 years older than the age I attained today. My mother died at 98. So let’s say I have maybe 20 or 30 years--if I’m lucky, that is. For though I currently enjoy robust health, there are the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to,” the illnesses or accidents that are likely to befall me during the next few decades as I age into an increasingly frail elderly man. Indeed, it could all end tonight: After all, I’m now in my late sixties, navigating broken, uneven ground alone at night. Easy enough to trip over a root, tumble down the hill, break my neck under this full moon.
But let's be optimistic and assume good fortune: How many times in the next 30 years will the moon be full on my birthday? I take a guess that it's maybe one more time, and later I consult a chart and verify it: The next time a full moon rises on my birthday is exactly 30 years from now. So maybe, if I’m still alive, alert, and ambulatory, and the sky is clear, I can enjoy a full moon on my 97th birthday. But those odds are impossibly long. I accept that I have just seen the last birthday full moon of my life.
Now, dear reader, perhaps this circumstance seems to you to be a function of my advanced age. If you’re a young person, maybe you think you’ve got plenty of birthday full moons ahead. But think again: If you are fifty, you get maybe one more. If you are twenty, you get maybe two more. That’s it. So the next time the full moon rises on your birthday, know that it is one of the last birthday full moons you’ll ever get. Savor it.