It was less than a week before the change to Daylight Saving Time and soon I would be able to hike more frequently after work. It was also three days before the full moon and the bright orb was high in the sky when I stepped onto the trail just before sunset. We have adopted “Daylight Savings Time” into our common lexicon……allow me to introduce a new term: “Moon Shadow Time.”
When the moon is high in the sky at dusk and bright enough to cast a distinct shadow, when the sunset fades to a golden glow, when the light of the rising moon and that of the setting sun are in equilibrium, a moment occurs when that rising radiance casts the first shadow at your feet. This is Moon Shadow Time. For as long as the moon remains high in the sky, the evening will get no darker than it is at this harmonious juncture.
There is a practical application for Moon Shadow Time. Standing on a ridge top, overlooking a moonlit sea of grass¸ if moon shadow is present and the path is clear, I know I can linger, savoring the onset of nighttime, even when the trail down is steep and rock strewn.
On March 5, 2012, Moon Shadow Time was 6:26 P.M., and I just kept walking. The sun-bleached seed tops rode the grass of the verdant plain and were clearly visible, reflecting the brilliance that poured down on them. The sea of green had turned into an ocean of silvery wave tops.
The deep greens of the grassland, the yellows of wild mustard and all the colors of nature were washed away leaving behind the distinct contrasts of a moonlit night. That’s why she stood out so clearly. It was her distinctively large ears, erect and focused, that first caught my attention. The doe was very close to the trail. We were both surprised and stood perfectly still, frozen in place by uncertainty. I slowly, quietly, gently walked further along the trail. Now that the unexpected interruption had moved on, the deer went back to browsing with her two fawns. I turned to watch the family feeding, distinctly visible in black and white, spirits moving ethereal on a softly lit plain.
I continued on my way, enjoying the tranquility of the evening, the grass gently rustling, cricket song softly serenading. A great horned owl joined in, sounding a haunting cadence that carried across the open space from his ridge-top perch. Closer, a coyote barked at me and then began to howl, thrusting his mournful cry into the night air where it reverberated along the ridge-line. A barn owl dove into the grass nearby, came up empty and then continued to fly over the plain. He was visible even when he turned away, his broad wings cloaking the white of his face and chest. I followed the progress of the powerful predator as he silently disappeared into the night. I was bathed in an ambiance like no other, exposed to the night, drinking it in. It seemed to me there was no better place to be at half past Moon Shadow Time.