Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pushing Night Away and Chasing Down the Moon

The full "Beaver Moon" on November 2, 2009 [also "All Soul's Day"] rising over Green River Knob, the highest point of land in Kentucky west of the Appalachians in the eastern part of the state. It watches over Casey County and our farm land on the other side to the east. At first I though the purple haze was a storm front, but it was night arriving from the east.

Last night I had one of my usual sublime, but often comical, experiences in the face of things.
I was driving home through South Fork Creek valley in Casey County at about 5:15pm (new time). The fading autumn light had that purplish golden glow on the umber foliage and cornstalks. And then Green River Knob, our "Monadnock" of Kentucky (both in presence and geographic definition) went all "purple mountain majesty" on me. It was breathtaking.

As I rounded the bend near the Baldock chapel, I caught a glimpse of something large, white and darting behind Green River Knob. At first I thought someone had erected a silo and that it was its metal dome top, large and gleaming. But it was bigger: the moon, of course, silly! As it hid again behind the knobs, I dashed to get up to the next ridge. In my brief, fleeting glimpse it was huge and saucer-like, as big a full moon as I'd ever seen! By the time I got back up on the ridge, it was much higher, still large, but much smaller than it had been hovering right on the horizon–I'm going to try again tonight to "chase" it, but maybe from our own knob this time!

Here, I must say again, that the skies of south-central Kentucky intrigue me. We have such a span of sky that arcs from east to west and all around us, a continuing orb of horizon and comings and goings. It is like this in the Midwest and West, I realize, but I had forgotten the "big sky" quality of life after so many years in New England where trees line the roads and there are few open horizons, at least in our part of New Hampshire. It is quite expansive for the soul and mind to have such a vista, rather like the same feeling of living on the ocean, but here we have an endlessly rolling stretch of land all around us and that can be comforting and freeing at times, and also binding, like a well-made old patchwork quilt of many fabrics. [Remember "The Land of Counterpane" from Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses?: "I was the giant great and still that sits upon the pillow-hill, and sees before him dale and plain, the pleasant land of counterpane."]

View to the east on Hopeful School Road–we also have Hopeful Church Road on our ridge. I love both names and sometime hope to find out more about their origin.

One phenomenon that I've noticed here on clear early morning drives to school or sunset drives home is that you can see the push of night as it heads west or arrives from the east. Behind Green Knob to the east, where the moon was rising, it seemed that there was a murky haze coming in, like a distant storm front. I thought at first it must be that or either some kind of wall cloud. But I remembered, no, that fronts rarely come from east to west, unless you are in the northeast and experience the ocean storm front known as a "Nor'easter."

When I got up on the ridge again and saw the moon behind Green River Knob, and looked to the right and saw the sunset just opposite to the west, I became aware that what I was seeing was actually the wall of night advancing, quietly rolling in like fog from the ocean. To the west I watched the light retreating. In the morning it is just the opposite: as we drive westward on Route 80 we seem to be pushing the wall of night ahead of us as dawn arrives (before Daylight Savings we would leave the house before sunrise so we would watch the day arrive as we made the 20 minute drive to school each morning). I have never had that experience before.

My now 21-year old daughter used to stand in her crib as a child and point out the window to the full moon, "Da Moon!" she would exclaim, her eyes wide with excitement: "Da Moon!"

As well as being able to better respond to the light here, we can watch weather patterns and changing clouds. Halloween provided us with a particular sunset pageant of golden light changing to purple on low clouds. Last night the sunset was more luminous, with blue and orange patches on minimal clouds.

So I pulled over to attempt to take photographs. I've included most of them in this blog entry. The Hudson River painters and Maxfield Parrish have done much better jobs of depicting skies like these on canvas. I laughed at my attempts to capture the moon, although I know photographers have done better than I. I realized that such beauty is meant to be experienced and deeply felt, not necessarily recorded. I was reminded that we plan, God laughs! The universe is vast and great and even trying to capture such sublime beauty in words or photographs is futile. Even this blog is a feeble attempt to share what I saw and felt last night but I do so anyway because humankind has always tried to express such emotion in writing and in art.

But what I saw was beauty–and majesty.

An old tobacco barn on Route 80 in Pulaski County–trying to capture this view was a bit risky with no shoulders and walking along at dusk with busy traffic. If more people could slow down and see what's around them, the world would be a better place–it would be nice if people would at least just slow down when they drive, even if they don't want to see the view.

My attempts to photograph were also just silly off of busy Route 80 where people were driving way too fast at the end of their days and I was risking my life just trying to slow down and see the beautiful pageant of light and moon and sunset. Clearly they were not and I need to recognize that not everyone can or wants to take the time to be in the moment or the notion of "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10) [Besides, it is hard to "be still" at all on a busy thoroughfare–so I had better luck on the back roads while trying to chase the moon.] I thought, too, of how the moon is everywhere around us and on the Earth, seen by all people at different times and in different guises. Even if we can not see it behind a veil of cloud or darkness, we know it is there, like God.

One of my favorite memoirs about place (and movies, too) is Out of Africa by Danish novelist and short story writer, Isak Dinesen. Her descriptions of her African farm, the natives and her experiences there are poetic and at times, like the best writing, transcendent. [Kamante, her native, and Christian, manservant, spoke this line in the movie that was not in the book: "God is great, Msabu."]

Here is a conversation with a "very old Kikuyu" in the aftermath of one of many flying trips she took with her lover, Denys Finch-Hatton. It rather points to our futile attempt to capture beauty or even come close to God in nature:

"Did you see God?" he asked.

Ndwetti," I said, "we did not see God."

"Aha, then you were not up high enough," he said, "but now tell me: do you think that you will be able to get up high enough to see him?"

"I do not know,
Ndwetti," I said.

"And you,
Bedar," he said, turning to Denys, "what do you think? Will you get up high enough in your aeroplane to see God?"

"Really I do not know," said Denys.

"Then," said
Ndwetti, "I do not know at all why you two go on flying."

THE ROAD HOME: The bend in the road that divides our farmland –we've just cleared on the left for new fencing. Our knob is also to the left (I say "our" because we own it–at least while on the Earth!).

Here are two poems about the moon which describe it better than I could do, or can portray by camera (and of course they are by two of my favorite American poets, Frost and Dickinson...mmm, sounds like the name of a really good literary agency–one of my winter projects, actually: to find an agent who will take me on–for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse):

The Freedom of the Moon

I've tried the new moon tilted in the air
Above a hazy tree-and-farmhouse cluster
As you might try a jewel in your hair.
I've tried it fine with little breadth of luster,
Alone, or in one ornament combining
With one first-water start almost shining.

I put it shining anywhere I please.
By walking slowly on some evening later,
I've pulled it from a crate of crooked trees,
And brought it over glossy water, greater,
And dropped it in, and seen the image wallow,
The color run, all sorts of wonder follow.

by Robert Frost
The Moon

The moon was but a chin of gold
A night or two ago,
And now she turns her perfect face
Upon the world below.
Her forehead is of amplest blond;
Her cheek like a beryl stone;
Her eye unto the summer dew
The likest I have known.
Her lips of amber never part;
But what must be the smile
Upon her friend she could bestow
Were such her silver ill!
And what a privilege to be
But the remotest star!
For certainly her way might pass
Beside your twinkling door.
Her bonnet is the firmament,
The universe her shoe,
The stars the trinkets at her belt,
Her dimities of blue.
by Emily Dickinson

My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon. [Japanese poet, Masahide]


a Cupcake near you! said...

Luna Bella -- what lovely photos to accompany a great blog piece; thank you so much for sharing. I love the moon in all its phases.

Catherine said...

Thanks, Cupcake! I just added another tweak about counterpanes...had to get a quote in there from a favorite childhood poem, "The Land of Counterpane" -- don't you love it when you are writing something and little flickers of poems and favorite books creep into the conversation?

This moon has really been pulling on me: the whole energy is huge, the writing is "right there" in all realms, my focus is good...and 'that time of the month,' too.

And not feeling the usual effects of SADD at this time of year, so that's all good.

We used to sing this song in grade school at Thanksgiving that had the refrain "Many moons ago..." It was an Indian song about the seasons and had a great drum beat. I always liked that concept of time: by the moon.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful moon photos and words to go with them. I have been chasing the moon this week too.

Kathy KL said...

I was taking photos this morning of moonset so was thrilled to find your moonrise photos. I added your link to my posting for those that can't just get enough mooning.

Phyllis said...

In my email today, I had a Google Alert response to my request for notification about Hudson River Painters. Your blog article came up. I'm so happy to have made your acquaintance. Your photos are absolutely beautiful.

I too love big expanses and beautiful skies and have found them along the Hudson River in the area of Westchester County in NY and a little farther north in the area called the Hudson Highlands. As a Westchester resident, until I discovered places to go along the Hudson, I also found that I rarely saw a wide open view. I'm now often found painting in oils along the Hudson and taking photos of some of the spectacular skies.

Catherine said...

Thanks, all and welcome! It has truly been a magical moon.

I noticed moonrise for our area tonight is almost 7pm, an hour later than last night (when I waited for it but had to go) and 90 minutes after the night before...when moonrise coincided with sun set. Quite rare, I think.

As my husband said tonight, "I think the moon just does what it wants!" (Kind of like his wife ; )

Cheers! Catherine

Anonymous said...

No wonder you are flourishing in your little corner of the world. Kentucky is absolutely beautiful ... and in some ways reminds me of our beloved Monadnock region, New Hampshire. (A world away from where I now live in metro Atlanta!) Destiny D.

Catherine said...

Destiny, you are so right. We looked in eastern KY, briefly, and it was too craggy for us (like WV) and more what one associates with the worst of Appalachia (not to knock it but it would have been too extreme for us). Western KY was too flat! South-central Knob country, "just right" -- kind of like Monadnock region only with much more open pasture land. Like it would have been in NH 75 years ago when everything was still actively farmed...more trailers here, too, however, and we do miss New England architecture at times! And stone walls..but not the taxes or the longer winters and the increased gentrification (as much as I miss parts of that, too).

OK, long winded! Thanks for posting.