As night fell I went looking for the full harvest moon. I’ve watched a lot of sunrises, but this was my first moonrise. There was nothing to see at first, but as the sun faded to the west a smudge of light started to appear in the north east. I made my way through the trees to the riverbank and watched and waited.
Tawny owls called as an orange disc rose slowly over the horizon. Layers of dust and cloud scattered the light and warmed the low night sky. The moon passed imperceptibly slowly through the leaves of a small tree on the far bank and when it eventually broke free there was a real change in the light. I held one hand in front of the other and the moonlight threw shadow fingers against my palm.
I knelt down on the cool bare earth to see the moon reflecting in the water. It was brighter and more yellow now, swaying in the ripples caused by surfacing fish. A moth flew close to my right ear, a heron called to the right.
Then came the sound of voices from behind. Two lights, headtorch high, were making their way along the path. Standing in the dark, I waited to see if they’d come close, then called out “Good evening!” as they passed. Two pleasant replies – the voices of young lads – then they were swiftly off down the river bank. Good luck to them – it’s not an easy walk even in the light.
My eyes slowly re-adjusted to the moonlight. Time to walk back through the trees to the main path on the other side of the wood. There were spots of light in places, but I mostly navigated by sound and feel. If I strayed from the bare earth of the twisting path the sound of leaves and scrub underfoot told me something was wrong. Each front foot slid close to the ground in case of roots.
I came out of the trees onto the path by the stubble field. The air was cool and dark. Off to the right there was a division in the field as light started to get over the treetops. Then as I walked points of light began to filter through gaps in the foliage and reached across the path itself. I stopped in one and my shadow stretched out, long and thin. I paced out from where I was standing to where the top of my head had been – 15 paces. That made the shadow 8 times taller than I was.
As I got to the end of the trees and looked down over the meadows there was a low mist forming by the river. The moon now had a blue tinge as well as the yellow. Around it was an aura tinged with a suggestion of rainbows and indigo. The light softened and simplified the scene, light mauves and yellows interspersed with brown shadows.
The rugby pitch had been lit by floodlights when I came past earlier, full of the shouts and bustle of training players. Now it was deserted, but a low mist covered the grass, reflecting silver in the moonlight to light it up once again.
I got up at 3am, and the garden was full of light. The moon was silver and the seas were fully visible. It was nearly overhead, and the shadows were less distorted. The first day of the autumn equinox.