Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rural Moonglow

Here’s something I enjoy a few times every month or so: moonglow. It occurred to me recently, that moonglow might be a completely unknown phenomenon to someone who lives in the city. Sure, city dwellers see the moon, but they also see the light from thousands of electric-powered lights; except during a power outage, there’s never a time when the moon lights up a city. Often in the countryside, the moon provides the only light.

To appreciate moonglow, it helps first to appreciate darkness. On an overcast night, when the moon is down—or when the clouds are particularly thick, it can be very dark indeed. In the city, I never wandered into a place even vaguely as dark. These nights aren’t light-free; in a small town, there is always light bouncing off the clouds, and your eyes adjust so you can make out shapes in the darkness.

However, get rid of the clouds and the moon, and the world becomes impressively dark—still not so dark that your eyes won’t adjust, but dark enough that you can’t make out textures and changes in surfaces. Is there someplace you can experience this level of darkness without fleeing the city? Maybe in a windowless room with the lights off, but with a dim frame of light leaking in around the door. If there’s digital equipment throwing off blue, red, green, or orange light, you’ve got it too bright for comparison.

When I first step out into a night so dark, I step slowly, and feel for the stairs with my feet. Even after five minutes, I can’t make out shapes along the side of the road; looking into the distance, I might be able to make out a tree, a tree line, or a house against the sky—but the darkness has almost no texture at all where I happen to be walking.

In contrast, it’s astonishing how bright the night can be when lighted by a full moon. Holding a book or a newspaper, with 20/20 vision, you can read by moonlight. It can be bright enough not only to see shapes, but to make out colors—though barely. Once your eyes adjust to the moonlight, you can walk and play outdoors reasonably effectively without other light sources. And on a clear, moonlit night when the land is covered in snow? Wow!

This isn’t some amazing discovery, but it seems worth mentioning for people who have never experienced it. Take a trip some time: go where there is no concentration of streetlights, cars, and porch lights—far from a city. Find a secluded road or path and walk it at night not just once, but on several nights. See what it’s like moonless (walk cautiously), and compare it with another night when the moon is up—and maybe even full.

For the complete City Slipper experience, visit my web site at

Also, please visit my blogs about growing your own vegetables and fruit: Your Small Kitchen Garden and Your Home Kitchen Garden

No comments: