One of my favorite things to do is to take a walk in the moonlight. I tend to work late into the night, usually arriving home in the wee hours of the morning when the moon is at it’s brightest. During the winter when the trees are bare, no matter how tired, the soft light of the full moon overhead in a cloudless, star filled sky and moon shadows before me, gently draws me to walk in the woods following paths I have known since childhood. In the summer, the canopy of leaves overhead makes the woods dark and hard to navigate , even with a full moon, but on a winter night, it is as bright as dawn and as silent as a world unoccupied by others.
That’s where I do my clearest thinking, my most precious dreaming, my sweetest remembering, and my best decision making, in those woods, in the middle of the night while the rest of the world sleeps.
I often hear the howl of coyotes and the footfalls of the deer, sometimes seeing them drinking from the stream. I’ve witnessed skunks foraging and once, an unidentified animal that turned out to be a Fisher Cat so it’s a good thing I sat still and avoided crossing it’s path. There are ornery opossum and lumbering raccoons to be seen while listening for that haunting sound of the ever-present but usually unseen owls.
I hear my grandfather’s voice beside me, and see myself walking hand in hand with him as a child, making discoveries that have stayed with me through the years. He taught me to strip the bark from a sweet birch sapling for a special treat, to catch frogs in the stream for lunch, to make a slingshot from an old piece of bicycle tire inner tube, and he taught me to love this land and learn from it. He taught me that I had nothing to fear. The memories are as keen as the shadows before me. I can see him kneeling down to feel the temperature of the ground for a reason that I have never understood – I’m sorry that I never asked him.
Eventually, spurred either by the cold night air or common sense that tells me I have to be up again in a few hours, I put aside the memories and wander back to the house with the sense of contentment that I always find there, in my woods, in the middle of the night.