It is one of those October days that is the reminder that comes every year and every year comes as a blessing.
These are days — I am sure I have written other Octobers — of miracle and wonder. By week's end we will have slipped into the darkening world of sunrises after 7 a.m. and sunsets before 6 p.m. The approaching turning back of the clocks will salvage the mornings for a bit. I feel myself on the precipice, every night coming faster, dropping like a hammer, and know the tumble down the well of winter is close.
Then the full moon rises out of the sea, the great Hunter's Moon, at perigee. The measured part of me urging against being a “cranky old person” is left behind when confronted with more Super Moon idiocy; we have, at our disposal, free for the taking, a great, textured vocabulary and the best we can do is “Super” moon?!
Perhaps it is just that that word has come to be synonymous with over-sized fast food portions, in a world that is largely alien to me, but this moon, this great glowing lunar orb, deserves better than fast food and mercantile sales, the constant of the retail world.
It is a great moon out over the ocean, a shiny new quarter that sails across the sky not quite but almost every twenty-eight days, another of the almost but not quite measurements of time drawn by the passage of the earth around the sun, and the alignment of the planets.
The moon baffles me most of the month. It rises where I do not expect it to rise, it slips in and out of the clouds, and when I am not thinking of it, it appears in the west, a glowing crescent, sliding toward the horizon. Only when it is full, rising when the sun sets, setting when the sun rises, am I sure of it.
When I was a child, going to the moon was the stuff of dreams. We had books that chronicled imagined trips, that told of the lessened gravity – before we had ever studied gravity – on the lunar surface, of leaping easily across the pale cratered land.
Today, I look at the moon and know man has been there, landed and, always to me, the biggest accomplishment/miracle, returned to earth. It was one of those things I took for granted, perhaps from that single bedtime story book, but I never doubted man would walk there.
This Hunter's Moon is a typical gift of October, all shiny and bright and beautiful until sleep proves elusive, the pale light so bright it mimics the dawn and chases away slumber. It is the stuff of dreams then proves itself to dream-stealing.
One night it was so pointless a struggle that I got up and wandered outside, barefoot in October, to the mistaken delight of Autumn, my golden dog always at the ready for play. It was like any of these nights; half-way between sunset and dawn, there was a dampness in the air, and moisture on the grass, a ground haze that is more a gauze veil than a cotton shroud, all under a high moon, gliding across a clear sky, its light so intense it washed all but the brightest stars from the heavens.
The dirt road is white in the moonlight, the strip of grass down its middle dark. There are sharp shadows, more defined than any cast by the sun. Withered leaves still clinging to the trees are precisely outlined on the pale roadway and I half expect the dog to bark at the slightest shifting of them.
A few days later the air is warm, the sun bright and wind ever-present, insistent upon unfurling the roll of paper towels I leave near the south-facing kitchen window, ones that unrolled a time or two over the summer, a fact already forgotten in these cooler days of fall. It is the clatter of a plastic cap blown off the little shelf into the sink that alerts me to pull down the sash before another of the antique cream bottles falls to destruction, or to the destruction of a not-so-much-as-advertised “unbreakable” cereal bowl, or a little ceramic basket I kept only because my mother had the mistaken notion I would like it and even decades after her death it didn't seem right to discard.
There are still two cream bottles and more than enough cereal bowls.
I go down the road, just to the turn onto Mansion, wondering at the bounty of October colors. There is inviting ivy, its poison laced “three leaves let it be” all shiny and red, and the tiny white asters that come in the fall, miniature dainty daisies that grow in low clusters, reminding me of the soft violet haze of their cousins in the back field. There is some round of leftover goldenrod, still, and the Virginia creeper that fades into surrounding greenery from spring until fall when it turns it signature scarlet.
The bayberry leaves are burnished, and silver berries show, tiny moons in the bright afternoon sun, and grasses that were tall and pliant at the start of June but faded and dried through the summer, now the muted hues I think exclusive to elegant urban arrangements, perhaps a notion born of watching people get on the boat with armloads of great plumed phragmites they seemed to think a great “find."
This time of year certain places have shining moments in the sun, the tree just by the turn onto Mansion Road that is blazing orange, and the ilex at the edge of the increasingly tiny pond by my gate. There is a shad that blooms white in the spring, now red berries nestled in swamp green leaves glimmer in the afternoon light.
The sun that was in my eyes is at my back when I walk home, past more berries and leaves and errant flowers, October's offering.