Country diary: This moonlight reflects nature’s glory

12th November, 2021.      //   General Interest, Space Travel  // 

Moon in the night sky

The front door clicks shut and the night is on a dipped headlight, half a circle of moon hanging in an overcast sky. Clouds scud across its face like wood smoke, light sheep’s wool wisps alternating with darker shades, as if the moon were fleetingly cloaked in a thick black muslin veil. Two nights ago it played peekaboo, disappearing for a few seconds at a time into murky clouds that presaged rain, before winking into life again. However, it is a constant, despite the interruptions.

Just as most of us are oblivious to its role as the instigator of tides, so we have lost our connection with the moon’s illuminating presence. How many even recall that it’s also out by day, sometimes a complete disk against a blue sky, outshone by the sun and greyed out like an unavailable option on a computer screen?

Full moon, third quarter, new moon, first quarter – each phase passes by in suburban irrelevance above the fixed, unchanging stars of our street lamps, and the full-beam snarl of home security lights, blinking on with a reproachful glare when I innocently wander past on a public highway.

In a candle-snuffing breeze, I head far out into the fields, away from all that is loud and lurid, and cosy up to the fringes of a riverside wood. Shrunken pupils widen in delight and eyes, strained by electric lights, feel the balm of the moon’s diffuse and gentle luminosity. Alone but not lonely, I turn this way and that to marvel at plants, trees and bushes in five hundred shades of grey.

And how this moonlight reflects nature’s glory. The sky in a pool of water, the undersides of slender willow leaves shining out, their shapes defined, contrasting with the dull, matt upper surfaces, whose outlines are hard to trace. White poplar leaves scattered over the path are there or not, depending on whether they landed sunny side up. And the trunk of a single birch tree presents great sheets of light bark, startlingly bright. In just a few minutes I have been able to rediscover the mooniverse.

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