Dec. 27, 2000

December Moon

by May Sarton

Broadcast date: WEDNESDAY, 27 December 2000

Poem: "December Moon," by May Sarton, from Coming into Eighty (W.W. Norton & Company).

December Moon

Before going to bed
After a fall of snow
I look out on the field
Shining there in the moonlight
So calm, untouched and white
Snow silence fills my head
After I leave the window.

Hours later near dawn
When I look down again
The whole landscape has changed
The perfect surface gone
Criss-crossed and written on
Where the wild creatures ranged
While the moon rose and shone.

Why did my dog not bark?
Why did I hear no sound
There on the snow-locked ground
In the tumultuous dark?

How much can come, how much can go
When the December moon is bright,
What worlds of play we'll never know
Sleeping away the cold white night
After a fall of snow.

It's the birthday of child psychologist and author Lee Salk, born in New York City (1926). He first came to national attention in 1960, when he published research showing that the sound of a mother's heartbeat has a calming effect on a newborn infant.

It's the birthday of 'Projectivist' poet Charles Olson, born in Worcester, Massachusetts (1910)—one of the Black Mountain poets. His books include Projective Verse (1950) and Mayan Letters (1953).

On this day in 1904, the Abbey Theatre opened in Dublin—the first state-subsidized theater in the world. Opening night featured two new plays—Lady Gregory's Spreading the News, and William Butler Yeats's On Baile's Strand.

It's the birthday of film star Marlene Dietrich, born in Berlin (1901). She was outspokenly anti-Nazi: when Hitler started arresting Jews, she financed the escape of several friends. During World War II, she gave performances for Allied troops at the front—she had to sleep in the trenches and wash with snow, but she came out to sing her signature hit, "Lili Marlene."

It's the birthday of novelist and playwright Zona Gale, born in Portage, Wisconsin (1874), known for her chronicles of Midwestern village life. Her novels include Friendship Village (1908), and A Daughter of the Morning (1918); her play Miss Lulu Bett (1920), which studied an unmarried woman who tries asserting herself in the face of social resistance, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921.

On this day in 1831, as the voyage's official naturalist, Charles Darwin sailed from England on the H.M.S. Beagle to survey the Cape Verde Islands, Brazil, Chile, Peru, the Galápagos Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Tasmania—an expedition expected to take 2 years that took 5. His observations during the voyage led to his theory of natural selection and the publication, 28 years later, of The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859).

It's the birthday of chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur, born in Dole, France (1822), the son of a tanner. He proved that microorganisms cause fermentation, and he developed vaccines against anthrax and rabies (1885).

It's the birthday of astronomer Johannes Kepler, born in Wurtenburg, Germany (1571)—who deduced that planets spin around the sun in elliptical orbits. Even before logarithms had been invented, Kepler formulated his 3 laws of planetary motion, which helped Isaac Newton (born 12 years later) to come up with his theory of gravitational force.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »