This is the week of the turning of the season, of Fall Equinox, the shift from light to dark begins now. In recognition of this shift, we spent Friday Evening watching the harvest moon rise over the prairie at Finley Wildlife refuge
We arrived at the boardwalk about an hour before the moonrise. The tall grasses were golden in the evening light. Birds were rushing about, finishing up the day’s business. Crickets were talking about the coming dark. To the west, the sun went down slowly over Mary’s Peak, sending pink light back over the open fields. The sky was huge above. We settled down with our dinner to wait for the moon. “I think it will come up over there,” Mark pointed east, where some thin clouds were obscuring the foothills of the Cascades. We watched. Suddenly, Mark gasped. “It’s there,” he pointed further south. Right then, the moon was a molten glow on the horizon. As we watched, it raced up into the sky, banded by clouds. A half moon…a full round moon, huge and orange in the dusky light, then a half moon again, looking like a photo of Jupiter with its bands of color across its face. A few geese honked overhead. The wind died. The world was quiet as the moon rose, slowly shrinking and fading as it rose. When it was high in the sky, we gathered our dishes and left, coming home to the same moon playing on the tomato and bean leaves that are growing over our living room windows.
We returned to Finley this morning to walk the marshes. Clouds had settled over the landscape so low that it was not really raining—we were walking in the clouds. The world was flat and open. We walked the long and winding boardwalk through the ash swale which is totally flooded in the winter time, observing the long, complex strands of usnea hanging from the trees like Spanish moss. The boardwalk ends in a bird blind looking over the marshes. Pelicans and ducks were hanging out on the snags in the middle; great blue herons stalked through the shallow water on one end; some mysterious fish swirled and leaped in front of us. We studied the landscape, and then turned onto the path along the marsh which leads to the cattail ponds. Swallows darted overhead. Elk track led across a recently plowed field. Quail trotted ahead of us, looking for their runs into the blackberry thickets. The air was moist and spicy. When we walked under a huge beach tree, it hummed. Why? We looked more closely; wasps covered the hanging catkins. Rain fell on our faces as we looked up into the sky, then the sun broke through and dried us off again. The changing season was evident in the slant of the light.
This week, we will begin to clear out the garden beds. I have already brought in the pumpkins, corn, and beans from the Three Sisters bed. It will hold the chicken coop by Friday morning, when we give the annual house tour to the high school sustainability class. Some plants will have a final burst of growth from the rain but, for most annuals, the dying light is a clear signal to shut down production. What growth will happen has happened. I will arrange the hoops over the two beds I hope to over-winter, so that, when a cold spell comes, I am ready, but I will not cover them and cut off any light now. Soon, we will gather in leaves from the street and pile them on the beds and in the compost hoops, tucking everything in for the winter. But now, we wander outside, soaking in the last of the sunshine, seeking a balance in our lives.