Moonrise was slated for 6:39 PM in Portland. When we arrived at six, the grasses were turning golden, small critters were rustling in the blackberry brambles, and the place was empty. We climbed the hill to the huge oak and settled in with dinner—tabouli with sungold tomatoes and a cucumber, fresh whole wheat bread and apple butter, grapes, grape juice, and apple crisp. Two owls argued over turf in the distance. We discussed where the moon would rise. I was afraid it would be behind the hill. Mark argued for a clump of trees, based on the sunset shadows. We ate slowly, wrote in our notebooks, and watched for the moon.
Moon watch is always a slow and peaceful process. Even after years, we are still never quite sure where to look. At about ten of seven, right on schedule, Mark ponders the projected time, which has passed with no moon. Do they take the time zones into account? Because there’s an hour difference, you know, from one side to the next. How accurate is that information on the internet? Should we enter our longitude and latitude next year? Would it matter? Where would we find that info? We pack up the dishes while we can still see everything.
We wait and watch. I break out The Sand County Almanac, which we are reading aloud and read the essay of the passing of the passenger pigeons. The chapter is an elegy for things past, destroyed by man without thinking. It is beautiful. I consider global warming and how out of joint the summer’s weather has been. Will someone being writing our elegy soon? The owls have quieted, but the geese are settling on a distant pond and we hear their night time conversations as the grasses grow darker. No moon yet…am I right about the hill blocking our view of the horizon on one side? The air cools as the sun sets behind us.
A mosquito bites my leg and another buzzes around my head. Although the little pond behind us is dry, the marsh is still holding water and must breed the insects. One bat appears, looking for dinner. We smile. Another flits by. Crickets call and the bush critters are still. The night grows darker—is there no moon tonight? Is that possible? Although we know that it is not, that the moon will rise, we are still worried. Sun and moon rise. In a complex and rapidly changing world, we need to rely on these actions.
Just when we are afraid we will have to leave without the moonrise, Mark sighs. “I see it,” he says. “Right in front of us, right where I thought it would be.” And then, I see it, too. A tiny sliver of deep golden light, rising through the tangled branches of the brush in front of us. Quickly, now, it emerges, deep orange from the dust, haze, and smoke of the valley. The sky is deep purple and moonshadow appears on the platform. We watch, transfixed. The moon will rise; the earth keeps turning.
All too soon, we have to leave. I pick up the dinner bag; Mark tucks his notebook into his backpack. The trail heads down into the owl’s valley, where a vernal stream runs. It is silent now. Under the trees, the night is dark, but we know the way ahead. We have walked this way before, hundreds of times. Cross the bridge, turn left, and head for the open parking lot, where the Ark is waiting. The moon follows us home, lighting the way.
The topping is all in proportions:
1 part flour
1 part butter
1 part sugar
2 parts oats
Then add a pinch of salt and some spices, and mix together by hand. Spread over fruit and bake until bubbly.