Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Harvest Moon Watch

It’s been one of those weeks-from-hell that appear occasionally in our lives. I had a CEA meeting (deadly on its own) on Tuesday, a poorly attended Open House on Wednesday, and a meeting with the fraternity that keeps me awake by bellowing, shrieking, and a pulsing beat on Thursday. Add in a dying chicken in the kitchen (can’t leave her out in the rain!), a pile of tomatoes that have to become salsa RIGHT NOW, and calling the police with noise complaints almost every evening for two weeks, as the OSU students came back and have nothing better to do than play a round or two of Beer Pong every evening, and we were fried by Friday. But it was the Harvest Moon and we had a plan.

Every year, Mark and I eat dinner at Chip Ross Park on the September full moon, also known as the Harvest Moon. It’s that huge, orange glowing moon that is so bright farmers can harvest their fields by it—hence the name. It rises above the Cascades at about 7:30 here in Corvallis. We arrive around 5:30 and walk the loop over the hills first. Chip Ross Park was the first place I found when I arrived here as a new teacher and it took me until late September to be able to leave my classroom before 7 PM for one afternoon. So, when I walk the trail, I remember those first few months of teaching—the stuffy rooms, the slight panic in my stomach every morning that today I would not be prepared at all for classes, the joy of having my own assignments, not someone else’s, to grade and evaluate. Mark pauses on the top of the hill to look out over the city and hunt for our house (which you cannot see). The first rain has usually fallen and the woods smell damp once more. The hills are golden; the trees still green; the sky clear with a slight haze on the horizon. Happy dogs run past.

After the walk, we haul our dinner out and spread out on one of the tables near the parking lot. We watch people come and go, eat, read, make a few notes, check the time. It is quiet, except for crickets and something rustling in the bushes. Deep breaths. We talk about harvest plans, not neighborhood association issues. Slowly, the sun sets. We begin to watch the horizon. Mark checks the time for the moonrise before we leave, so we are eagerly waiting, facing east. Every year, we talk about where it came up last year—behind the tree? Balanced on the peak there? Where did we wait? How long does it take to appear above the mountains? Where is it?! We are always, always, surprised. Somehow, it slips up north of where we are staring. One of us catches a glimpse of light—there it is! It moves upward, sliding through the clouds and haze, golden light in tree branches, huge on the horizon, slowly shrinking to normal size as it rises. We watch, quietly, until it is fully risen and the parking lot is dark. The last few visitors are leaving; we hear people calling their dogs over, cars starting. Silence settles over us as well. We pack up the leftovers and head for the Ark, drive down the hill into town and our lives once more.

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