On the evening after the full moon, as dark settles fully in, I’m settled in, too: sunk deep in the cushions of the reading chair, reading, with feet under a throw and a glass of wine at my elbow.
Doug, on the couch, stirs, gets up, announces he’s going into the hot tub. I nod but don’t move; I’ve reached a stage of life in which a hot soak before bed leads to an uncomfortable night. Besides, I’m feeling lazy.
Looking at the tops of the ponderosa pines beyond the deck to gauge wind speed, Doug adds, “Ooh. Nice moon.”
That’s enough to get me up, to at least admire the moonrise through the window. And it is nice—gorgeous in fact. Turning my back on it to return to the chair seems ungracious.
So, while Doug strips, I put on coat, hat, and gloves. It’s a pleasant night but “pleasant” when you’re 8900 feet up in the Colorado Rockies in April is a relative term.
Outside, a higher-than-usual hint of humidity chills the air and gives the moon’s glow a faint sepia tint. The light is warmer and more golden than the platinum glitter of a dry mid-winter’s night. There’s plenty of light for walking—enough, in fact, that my shadow leans in front of me like a dog straining at the leash.
Just over the crest of the hill leading down to the barn, there’s a line of shadow thrown by the ridge. I step out of the moonlight, but the sheen across the sky’s dome offers ample illumination, and I keep up my full-paced walk.
I don’t emerge out of the shadow until I’m out on the straightaway beyond the pasture gates. Turning to walk backward for a few steps, I admire the moon’s ambered disk shining through the black silhouettes of the pines along the top of the ridge. I stop, move forward a few steps to re-enter the shadow zone, and walk backward again, watching the moon rise out of the trees.
I turn and rejoin my shadow on our walk. The familiar landscape is filtered by dark, with each rank of hills progressively dimmed by distance. My feet are confident on the familiar road, but my eyes are looking across the frontier of their limits. I sense colors but cannot detect them. The details my mind provides are, I suspect, filled in by day-lighted memories.
Following the road downhill on my usual walking route, I reach the tree where Doug and I traditionally turn around when we’re out for a stroll, but I keep walking; the night is fine, and I have my eye on another line where the polish of moonlight on the ground is cast into shadow by a the wide hip of the land. I pace into the gloom of that moonless realm, turn around, and walk the moon up again.
That’s two moonrises tonight, I think to myself…or three? Or does the first one, over the horizon count if I wasn’t watching? In any event, not bad for one night.
Returning home with the moon in my eyes, I catch up to the ridge-shadow below the house, which has shortened considerably. As I pass into its shade, the moon sinks into the black bristles of the pines. I stop, step back a few paces, and lift it up again.
What fun, I think. I could do this all night.
But of course I can’t. The walk has been lovely but this moon-lifting is tiring and I’m ready to put my feet up again. My wineglass is waiting. The angle of the moon’s light as it glides toward lunar noon is erasing the margins of shadow thrown by folds in the landscape. The boundaries of more-light and less-dark I’ve been playing in are vanishing as the moon lifts itself out of my reach.