Moonlight: A piece by John A. BragstadFeb 13, 2023 12:09PM ● By Content Editor
Author: John Bragstad - Boreal Community Media - February 13, 2023
It has been inescapable the last few nights - the presence of moonlight, the path of shadows across the fallen snow. We catch it through our windows as we turn in to bed. For those who awake in the night, it is our companion as we roam the house for moments.
We wonder about the animals out in the forest. Are they prepared to be found? Do they roam as in daylight? Does the moon free them to graze, to search out their adversaries? Does it only further expose them to danger?
Moonlight can play so differently for so many people. Up the Trail, in the silences, it sweeps across the Borderland and reveals places we might seldom (if ever) visit. It reaches into the bays, it paints the stone cliffs accustomed to darkness.
For some, its magic means havoc as its qualities disturb sleep, plant dreams, and conjure up a kind of madness that has nothing to do with psychological states. But the ancients would speak of it. Some are all too familiar with its pranks.
“The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” is how it is for some. Listen for the masterful lyrics by Jimmy Webb, who, in an inspired moment, caught one side of the moon’s approach and presence with us.
See her how she flies
Golden sails across the sky
Close enough to touch
But careful if you try
Though she looks as warm as gold
The moon’s a harsh mistress
The moon can be so cold.
For some, the moon can seem that way. Of course, he was bringing back the happier times (“Once the sun did shine, Lord, it felt so fine; The moon a phantom rose, Through the mountains and the pines - And then the darkness fell.”). The moon, as haunting as it can be, brought melancholy to his experience.
For others, the moon’s shadows and softer light are anything but that. They are a comfort and contrast to the deep darkness of a Northern night without moonlight. They reveal. They tease the edges of our imagination about what lies out there, what is hidden by the shadows.
Climb to any high spot like Honeymoon Bluff and look out on the open country. Superlatives follow: the world is “bathed” in moon glow, the country is “washed” in light, “magic” is at play, and if there ever were a trickster in nature, nights such as this would be their opus creation.
Henry David Thoreau perhaps described best an appreciation of this gift we come to know, especially in wilderness. He wrote:
“I did not wish to take a cabin passage but rather to
go before the mast and on the deck of the world,
for there, I could best see the moonlight amid
the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.”
I once tried to describe the moon’s charm in a verse I called “Night Magic.” It was an attempt to paint my experience of this country as with a water brush.
Moon-swept Night Magic
Awash in silence,
Bending to the Day.
Ancient Interpreter, Mystic,
Medicine Man Moon.
The Drumbeat of Creation
Walking among the Hills.
Soft, serene, silver-tipped
Wings. Stalking the Unseen
Days can be forgotten and lost in the Canoe Country. But rarely can nights, saturated with moonlight, be forgotten or robbed from our memory. They haunt and follow us still.
About John A. BragstadJohn A. Bragstad has hiked the Chilkoot Trail in the Yukon, watched polar bears from inside a cabin in the moonlight on the shores of Hudson Bay. He has canoed one of the last untamed river systems in North America and has watched puffins swim in the waters off of Newfoundland. He has been a therapist, working with couples and individuals, for 25 years. Nature has been one of his best teachers.
He has written three books and any number of blog essays, quick reads for adults to pick-up and put-down. He is self-published and is enjoying retirement. Lake Superior is just off his front porch. To the north of our home is the incomparable BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness). Living close to wild places is its own elixir!