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The Jefferson Journal is JPR's members' magazine featuring articles, columns, and reviews about living in Southern Oregon and Northern California, as well as articles from NPR. The magazine also includes program listings for JPR's network of stations.

Moon Promenade

A bright light shining directly through the window awakens me. Sleepy and startled I blink at the illumination covering the comforter I’m curled under. Although the colors are washed out, I can actually see the pattern of the flowers on it. It takes me a few seconds before I realize that it is not an unnatural light, but the dazzling light of the December full moon. I breathe in wonder at this spotlight from 238,854 thousand miles away and how it comes in through my window at the precise angle to bathe me. The moon is full and breathtakingly bright and clear and deep and luminously beautiful.

For the past nine and a half years I’ve lived in a beautiful stone house, with beveled diamond-paned windows (they cast rainbows throughout the house), perched on a ridge above the Upper Klamath Lake. The house faces west and there are no wires or other houses in view on this eastern ridge. This side of the lake is high desertland, sagebrush and juniper, wild grasses and wildflowers. It sits along the Pacific Flyway, a main migratory bird route. It’s also on the path for fighter jets to and from Kingsley Field. Often I’ve heard the sound of wild geese mingled with the roar of jets. For all these years I have taken almost daily walks at sunset and often watched the sun disappear in the west as the moon brought light above the hills behind me.

As I lie here now in bed, not wanting to move, my eyes closed, my face is covered in moonlight. I am a timeless muse in a transparent veil. As a child I had a dreamy notion that the moon followed me. I don’t know where this came from but I have lived with this caprice throughout my life. A numinous notion I now understand.

The moon brings forth many feelings—peacefulness, the sentiment of love under the clear presence of the moon or a cold, austere moonlight that chills us with loneliness. Our moon is an ancient lyric of time—inconstant moon—that has guided humanity through the ages. Late one summer night, I sat in the porch swing watching and listening. There was no human sound, just some geese and other waterfowl in the distance. The moon presented a swath of silver light across the lake. Slowly, a large black shape began to emerge into the light. I watched stunned as the dark form slid on the water, across the light, a silhouette that was obviously, even from the distance, several feet high and looked like a large pointed fin. No lights, no sound, and then it disappeared onto the other side into the darkness. A few days later I was with some people that I had just met (and I did not mention the lake incident) when they started laughing and joking about Klammie. I asked what they were referring to and they said, “You don’t know about Klammie, the Klamath Lake monster?” I did now.

My mother tells me to open my purse to the moonlight and I will never be without money. I should listen to her. Before my grandmother died, a few months shy of 100, I asked her what her favorite memory was. She said it was the night our family gathered and we all watched Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. I remember the evening and the image on her little portable black and white TV well. When my son was young I used to buy green cheese, known as Sage Derby, and Special Delivery it to him from the Man in the Moon. I would wrap it in simple brown or white paper. When he wasn’t looking I would take it to the front door and ring the bell. Then I’d run quickly to the backdoor and slip in quietly and say something like, “Did I hear the doorbell?” Of course we had to answer it and there would be this little package that said ‘Buck’ on it. He would giggle and dance with delight as we headed for the kitchen to eat his special cheese.

The December moon has been called the Oak Moon, which I assume to be in honor of the Druids as they, and the moon, awaited the return of the sun. Or also as the Cold Moon as winter’s chill sets into the darker nights. Socrates claimed the moon was both a stone and a god. And as I lay in the silvery light, I sense a paradox of passion and detachment, of both intimacy and distance. Lunacy comes to mind. Or moonstruck. 

As I lay here hoping to absorb some of the light, the moon descends over the mountains, its position through my window changes and I need to keep shifting to stay in the moonlight, until finally I’m sideways across the bed. Outside my window I wonder if the land has been able to sleep with this luster on it all night. I haven’t, and now, as the last of the moonlight dips like a fountain of golden spray from the top and around the edges of a mountain peak, I realize just how much I will miss this moon, this house, and this land that I have found sanctuary in for these past years.

In mid-December I moved back to Ashland. That was the last time I lay in the full Klamath moonlight in my bed. Every month I lived in Klamath Falls I watched the moon shimmer over the lake—always different, always beautiful. I saw eclipses, tangerine-like slices of brilliant orange, creamy whiteness, pale, frosty pink, half moons, crescents, and I always saw them twice, once in the sky and once on the water. And, yes I howled long and low and once I even had some coyotes return my call. I watched Earth’s movement and how the moon, every year, came in through my bedroom window in early December.

I find myself singing the lyrics of Moon River…Oh dream maker, you heart breaker, wherever you’re going I’m going your way…there’s such a lot of world to see. 

And I know that from now on, I’ll follow the moon.