fetch her ball under the light of the full moon in the ocean near the Colony Cabana Club in Delray Beach.
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
by the harvest moon as it rises in Delray Beach.
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
Each month, a group gathers at the Colony Hotel’s Cabana Club to watch the full moon rise
By Ron Hayes
Any other summer night, you might get 40 people at the Colony Hotel’s Cabana Club, sipping wine, nibbling cheese and gazing out beyond the Delray dunes to savor a gorgeous sunset sky.
“But we’re expecting about 90 tonight,” says Jayce Swentzel, checking in a steady stream of members and guests. He’s 24, an FAU student from Lexington, Ky., by day, club attendant by night. “During the season, it’ll be 120. We have a specific crowd of members we almost never see except for nights like this.”
On this night — Friday, Sept. 16 — the Colony Cabana Club will welcome a very special guest, a beloved entertainer who’s dazzled men, woman and children longer than anyone can remember.
Showtime is 7:32 p.m.
“These full moon parties used to be the only thing I did here,” says Anita Holland, a 10-year member from Boca Raton. “But then I thought I can’t really ask my husband to pay the membership when I only come once a month.”
Tonight she has four tables pushed together for about a dozen friends, and enough food to feed a dozen more. Fresh mahi tacos, chips and dips. “Plus I have lots of vegetarian friends, so we’ve got veggie salads with kale and quinoa and all that boring stuff.”
And wine, of course.
“It’s amazing,” Holland says. “We’ll howl at the moon, we’ll dance at the moon, but when it comes up I sneak away from all my friends and go down in front of the private bungalows to be alone with the moon.”
Not far away, Paul and Lynn Freeman, 14-year members, have scored a front-row table at the edge of the deck.
“We come every month,” Lynn says. “It’s like we’re on vacation, even though we live here.”
“It’s old-fashioned Florida,” Paul adds.
“And the moon’s a constant,” Lynn muses. “Throughout time, it’s always the same, even as the world’s changed around it. It changes your mood.” Suddenly she remembers. “Oh, and there’s so many songs about the moon!”
Blue Moon. Moonglow. Moondance. Moonlight In Vermont. And of course, Shine On, Harvest Moon.
Tonight, a harvest moon will shine on the Cabana Club. It probably was named by Yankee farmers for the bright light that let them work after dark. Native Americans called it a corn moon, and it’s also known as an elk call moon or a wine moon. The Chinese call it a chrysanthemum moon.
Call them what you will, full moons appear every 29.5 days, when the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun and all three are in a straight line.
A harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumn equinox, Sept. 22 this year, and tonight’s harvest moon will look even bigger because it will be closer to Earth in its orbit, a mere 227,000 miles away, a “supermoon.”
At 7:23 p.m., the sun officially sets. A gentle blue dusk lingers on the deck, the sand, the sea, and a frisky anticipation flits among the crowd — except perhaps around Noah Pesso, 65, who joined the club in November.
“I’m thrilled,” he says, not sounding especially thrilled. “You know, it’s like you see one movie and they tell you’ve got to see the same movie again and again and again. Moon after moon.”
Then he turns on his phone to show off all the photos he took at July’s full moon party.
“Oh, I joke around a lot,” he says, dropping the pessimistic pose. “I like to enjoy life. I like to have fun, and the moon’s a part of that. It’s part of everything.”
The moon also is prompt. At precisely 7:32 p.m., the first tangerine sliver comes over the horizon.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please welcome to the sky ...
Men and women line the deck, aiming smartphones out to sea while others grab their drinks and children and hurry down to the shore.
“It’s beautimous!” Jimmy Howard exclaims, scurrying over the sand.
“It’s beautimous maximus,” his friend Michelle Farina agrees, and indeed it is — a huge orange globe sliding up the sky, so perfectly round and splendidly bright you can understand why full moons inspire myth and superstition.
As everyone knows, the moon and madness have always been best friends. The very word “lunatic” comes from Luna, Roman goddess of the moon, who rode her silver chariot across the sky every night.
In 18th-century England, criminals could argue for a lighter sentence for crimes committed during a full moon, and London’s Bethlehem Hospital — the “lunatic asylum” from which we get the word “bedlam” — shackled and flogged patients to curb outbursts when the moon was full.
Even as recently as the 1990s, a two-year study at England’s Bradford Royal Infirmary reviewed 1,621 cases of dog bite over two years and concluded your chances of being bitten double during a full moon. Unfortunately, a later study by the University of Sydney found a slightly lower incidence of dog bites during full moons.
But we still want to believe there’s magic in the moonlight.
Tommy Tyghem of Boca Raton is wading in the ocean with his wife, Jackie, and their children, Roman, 7, and Eva, 5.
“I can’t sleep during a full moon,” he says as Roman and Eva frolic in that glimmering path of moonshine stretching over the sea to shore. “From about two days before to two days after. It’s probably the light coming in the windows, but even if I close the blinds, it doesn’t matter.”
How long has he noticed this? He considers. “I’ve never not noticed it.”
The moon doesn’t dawdle. In minutes, it’s risen high in the sky. The orange glow has paled to a very bright white, and the orb is decidedly smaller. Smartphones disappear, the beachgoers wander back to the club, and before long the crowd begins to disperse.
“Now it’s just another moon,” Noah Pesso says, resigned. “When you’re at the beach, you see just a little bit, and then a half, and then it’s big and red. But when it gets up high again, it’s just like I’m in my backyard. It’s just another moon.”
And then he turns on his smartphone, to show all the pictures he took tonight.
Note: For anyone who missed last month’s show, the full moonrise will return by popular demand at 7:38 p.m. Oct. 16.