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Boreal Community Media

Moonlight: A piece by John A. Bragstad

Feb 13, 2023 12:09PM ● By Content Editor
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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 

Mystery, Distant 


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. Bragstad

John 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!

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