Enumeration: 12 full moons
* an excerpt from this post appears in the Methow Valley News, Valley Life 11.24.2021
On Halloween Eve 2020, some friends and I went for a night hike. What dragged us out of the house was neither Halloween itself nor the prospect of a waning social life in our first pandemic winter. Instead, it was the serendipity of the lunar cycle: October 31st, Hunter's Moon, Blue Moon--Halloween at its finest.
Ancient peoples believed that the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred on All Hallows Eve. Now, with COVID, the boundaries between everything seemed blurred: home and work, home and school, pajamas and office wear.
Hiking to a mountaintop under a Blue Hunter’s Moon, however, took us for a few hours out of pandemic groupthink. Giddy with exertion, with the snap of cold on our faces and the crunch of snow underfoot, riding sugar-highs from popcorn balls wolfed down on the summit, we said “We should do this again.”
So we did, eleven more times. Every full moon for the next year, we ventured out to snowshoe or ski, hike or swim.
I. Hunter's Moon, 10.31.2020
With the COVID death toll climbing and winter closing in, we crunch on a new crust of snow up the mountain as the moon silvers the path to the summit. Noses pointing upward, we howl at the moon, fierce, triumphant, lupine.
II. Beaver Moon, 11.30.2020
If you can force yourself out, you won't regret it. It's hard, admittedly, to finish dinner, cozy around the wood stove, and pull on down parkas and mittens, strap on snowshoes, and crunch out into the field.
But when you do--oh, that moonshadow. That Big Dipper, thrusting itself against the backdrop of the night sky, the irrigation wheel line, the distraction of the neighbors' lights. Those coyotes, haunting in their chorus, loping across the crust. COVID narrows our social world to a pinprick, but above us, the universe unfolds.
III Cold Moon, 12.30.2020
By now it is tradition. Full moon, out we go. The teens join us for a 5k loop on the Nordic trails. Bombing down hills with whoops and shrieks, they lap us, as we, wary of falling in the dark on icy plunges, proceed with caution. Below us, along the river, other skiers and fatbikers are spots of dark on the gleaming trails.
Later, around a fire, we eat cookies, while internationally-recognized ecologists and climate change experts discuss pandemic-inspired Grey's Anatomy binge-watching.
IV Wolf Moon, 1.28.2021
Undeterred by the predator moon, the great horned owl squawks while we zoom through "cougar alley," a wooded section of trail where sign of the big cats range from tracks to fresh kills. And yet as we kick and glide we notice a dark shadow trailing us, a fuzzy ball of vole, scampering alongside, frolicking, seemingly fearless.
V Snow Moon, 2.27.2021
We're in the groove now. Full moon, gear up, snowshoe or walk or ski--it really doesn't matter, as long as it involves that dark sky, that gleaming light, diamond sparkle underfoot.
VI Worm Moon, 3.28.2021
The aptly named Worm Moon offers a wormhole from winter to spring. As the snow shrinks back from the winter-ragged lawn, vole tunnels under the grass snake through clods of earth, the dank odor a sharp contrast to winter's bright smell. The ski trail in the field--for months a pathway to winter adventures--is now just a ribbon of white atop a brown palette.
VII Pink Moon, 4.27.2021
Whatever. Once you've had the bright full moons of winter on a plane of white, April's full moon underwhelms.
VIII Flower Moon, 5.26.2021
The Flower Moon finds me sitting in a hot tub at my childhood home, watching the moon rise over the lake where my parents moved when I was 13. I've seen a lot on this lake--some of which is best left unwritten--but I've never watched the moon rise from here before. It doesn't so much "rise" as creep up. One moment it's not there, the next it is, a slash of light across the surface of the water.
IX Strawberry Moon, 6.24.2021
Summer full moons are almost an afterthought. After picking strawberries, go up to the lake for a moonlight dip. Pink cotton candy sunset shimmers in the west, splashed across a wedge of sky.
Float, breathe, freak out a little when your dangling foot brushes plant life growing up from the lake bed. Tilt back, close your eyes, surrender to the gentle slap of ripples against your outstretched arms.
A flapping sound by the lakeshore leads to a box turtle laying eggs in a hole: one of nature's timeless rhythms.
X Buck Moon, 7.24.2021
The moon set our orange tents aglow on our dusty perch above the Deschutes River, the sound of the rapids shushing off the canyon walls. Sleep for the youngsters was hard-won after reading Roald Dahl's "The Landlady," and no sooner had we all dozed off than we woke with a start to a distant churning. A freight train thundered along the opposite bank, the shadow of the cars wavering on the hillside.
XI Sturgeon Moon, 8.22.2021
Six straight weeks of wildfire smoke--wearing N95 masks outside, air filters running 24/7 in every room, puzzle pieces of charred Ponderosa Pine bark and needles littering the patio, ash coating the cars. And then a gift: a clear night. With the clean air, the moon was almost irrelevant, but there it was, like an old friend in the night sky we hadn't seen for more than a month. Everything overhead seemed to shine brighter. We inhale, knowing the respite is brief, and gird ourselves for the rest of fire season.
XII Harvest Moon, 9.20.2021
No one wants to rally, but then suddenly there are four of us marching up the mountain at dusk. No one but I knows that a new glass tile mosaic has been installed on a water storage tank at the summit, and it is a treat to watch my friends discover it.
At home, I can't find our pet bunny. He's burrowed into some secret den, or he's hiding in the woodpile, or he's nestled under the bitterbrush somewhere. I search for him for what seems like hours, then give up and go to bed. When I wake, it is to the sound of coyotes yipping in the field. I go outside again, the moonlight illuminating the soccer ball deserted on the lawn, loaf-sized boulders, a discarded Croc. Everything looks like a bunny; nothing is a bunny.
The next morning the bunny is back. If bunnies could repent, this one wouldn't.
In moments when I wasn’t skittering down an icy ski trail or trying to ignore the shiver of lake weeds against my ankles I thought, “I should write about these full moon outings.” But when the year was over I found it hard to assign meaning to these moonlight forays. They were, for the most part, both glorious and ordinary: unremarkable in the big picture, but a godsend to the alien new social space we were occupying. The full moon adventures were, I realized only afterwards, touchstones of normalcy: a dozen sturdy anchors in a year that otherwise felt a bit unmoored.