It was just another ordinary fall evening. A friend had been visiting our farm having come up to give us a hand with some renovations before winter set it. She always enjoyed her stays with us, and we enjoyed her skillful carpentry and great company. Living as far north as we did, visitors from our former life down south were rare to non-existent. So Pearl’s 400 plus mile trek to our place in northern Alberta was more than appreciated.
While we kept on with hauling hay and combining grain in the face of fast approaching winter, Pearl refurbished the outside of the old house we lived in. It had been one of the first in the district we’d been told, the living room often used as a courtroom when local behavior deemed such decision making processes necessary. I still remember the first land tax notice we received. The home place acreage where the barn and house were located was worth less than a similarly sized parcel of crop land. I laughed and asked my mate if he thought the home actually lessened the value of that piece of land. It was serviceable but old indeed.
On the particular day in question, Pearl had finished a new set of stairs leading to the closed-in porch. She was testing them out, sitting on the top one having her afternoon coffee and cigarette. Since we didn’t smoke, she never smoked in our house. She was always respectful that way. I had just come in from hauling hay ready to start evening chores. I had a cow to milk, chickens to feed and sheep to bring close in for the coming night before we sat down to eat. The days were already shortening, so I hurried along to get chores done. A beautiful sunset was stretching out across this big sky country in shades of mauve and burnt orange and the air had a nip to it reminding me of what was soon to come.
When supper was over, Fred went out to his shop to work on some equipment repairs, I was separating cream and making butter and Pearl took her coffee out into the brisk evening to once again sit on her new stairs, relax and have a smoke. She had been out there about 20 minutes when all of a sudden, I heard the door open quickly and her whispering voice, tinged with alarm saying, “Christina, come out here – quick.” I was in the middle of washing the separator, but I stopped, and began to dry my hands on a tea towel. Her head poked in the door this time and she was even more insistent. “Hurry!”
There was a definite look of fear in her eyes. I wiped any leftover water on my jeans and jumped into my wellingtons. I came out the door and turned to the east where she pointed. “What is that?” she asked, pointing perhaps 80 yards away toward the end of the barnyard. She was standing behind me as one does when they feel the need for protection. I was standing stock still in awe of what stood before me.
“Pearl” I said over my shoulder, “what are you smoking?” Then I giggled.
She was in no mood for humor. “What is that?” She was dead serious.
“Pearl, that’s the moon.”
“No,” she countered.
“Yes it is.”
Before us sat a huge orange ball. It appeared to be two to three stories tall in diameter. It looked like it was sitting smack on the ground, as if you could walk right up to it and touch it. It was a sight I will remember the rest of my days.
I turned to Pearl who still looked a bit disbelieving and asked, “What did you think it was?”
“A UFO or something.”
I laughed softly and said something about damned city-slickers, and then I gave her a hug. We both laughed like young girls sharing yet another secret of life as we watched it all too quickly begin to seemingly shrink and rise.
I have felt since a child that the great tracts of nature are an ongoing gift to us humans. They stand just at the end of our lanes, just out beyond our back yards or in my case, at that time, just where civilization melts into wilderness; and there they are. In the words of Wallace Stegner:
“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed ... We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in.”
And that wild country includes not just what is on the ground with us but the alluring, incalculable vastness of what also lies above us, especially on nights when it appears to have come for a visit.
Here’s what one such “moon visit” looked like in Wellington, New Zealand. Do take a peek.
Don't you feel sorry for those, those countless masses, who have never witnessed nature? After reading your beautiful description, I'll probably spend the remainder of the evening seeing some of my own in my memory's eye... Thank youReplyDelete
I think I feel sorriest for the young children of today who not only don't run through woods stopping at small creeks to play or making new homes in its bushes or trees, but worse are taught to fear so many creatures of nature as to not want to go there. So glad you have special memories as well for they are worth gold in a world as chaotic and angry as ours. Thanks for your lovely comments, Jack.Delete
Christina, I too feel for the young of today who don't experience such things. I remember a night in outback Australia camping with my family. I must have been about 7. The stars carpeted the sky, glittering so close I thought I could touch them. We had no more protection than a tarpaulin between us and the ground and it was magical. Don't know if my mother felt the same way :) You need to put these anecdotes together and make them a short story collection.ReplyDelete
Ah, Alana, I can see it. If your mum didn't find it a favorite outing then bless her for insuring such memories for the lifetime of her child. I have thought of doing what you suggest, but sometimes it is hard to go back there knowing I will have to leave again, Perhaps some day, however.Delete
I have been in the North Woods in Ely , Minnesota growing up at Everett Lake on the Echo Trail. Pitch dark, as a kid out there, smelling the woods in the damp Minnesota summer night, I was alone, as the parents and their friends, were in the Lodge, partying. I sat on the lawn in front of the old garage, there , on the grass, looking up..up up...at the vast cannnopy of twinlkling stars, then , over the garage and treel line etched out in back of it, came the moon, lighty burnihsed with the palattes of gold mixed with silver, sliding upward like an egg in the sky -skillet, it went, and I knew in my Soul there was ONE creator and I was ONE with that creator, and it was kind of a floating realizetion of total Spiritual Substance interchanging with me, the garage, the treeline, the lodge and the laughter inside..all ONE..peaceful and harmonious. Thank you for the memory of that, and the vision of yours...so beautiflly sketched out for us only as you can do , Christina. Wordsmith that you are, painter of our innermost dreams, I thank you.--MerriReplyDelete
Stunning, Merri. A hush came over me as I read your description of that night. Thank you for sharing that night with all of us. We can never have too much of nature's beauty.Delete
Oh my gosh Christina ... I loved the story. It is so true and full of wisdom and humor and love .. perfect. I feel blessed to have seen that moon .. but the video is beyond beautiful. Thank you for sharing beauty as you always do.ReplyDelete
So glad you are there to share it with. I sense the soul of humans needs to be continually fed on beauty and the natural world offers it up freely even in the densest of cities or direst of circumstances. We are well cared for.Delete
Christina, it's always wonderful to read you, great story, great sensibility!ReplyDelete
Love that you stop by, Claude. With some of the problems you face in your field of expertise, I'm sure looking at the window into whatever lies outside in your beautiful country, helps ease your heart.Delete
I really love to read this post and I am glad to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Thanks!ReplyDelete
I'm delighted you stop by and enjoy.Delete
Lovely piece, Christina. We've just moved to the mountains surrounded by the woods. The past few days of breathing the oxygen-rich air and soaking up the green of the forest has rejuvenated me. I'd been away too long.ReplyDelete
When I saw where you two were headed, I thought oh how wonderful. It is the truth that does indeed set us free, but it takes conviction to move toward it. So happy for you that you have. Enjoy and don't stop.Delete