Check out the night sky

This week’s column is meant to provide a cheerful view about late fall.
I realize it’s not a favourite time of year for lake lovers, especially since the days are short, and it’s not yet cold enough for ice.
I also realize this is the time of year with the least amount of colour–the trees are now bare and even the loons, which have turned a drab gray, are lifting off towards brighter places.
But if you look up–way up–you’ll find this is the best time of year to capture the most uniquely symbolic force of nature.
What I’m recommending is a look at the nighttime sky, and in particular the moon. A bright orb is flooding over an empty stage of water this week, but it’s more than a spotlight for the upcoming snow and ice.
During a cycle of just over 29 days, it can be compared to an epic drama. First it appears full of brightness, and then it gradually dies before it is renewed again for yet another encore.
This “waxing” and “waning” begins Saturday with the full “hunter’s moon.” Until then, the orb is still “waxing,” which means it is illuminated on its right side and any darkness is on the left.
To add to the display, meteor showers also are occurring, which will peak on Thursday of this week with an average of 20 falling stars visible per hour.
Then after Saturday, the moon will start to “wane,” which means it’s illuminated on its left side, slowly appearing thinner until it turns into a crescent.
Regardless, the moon is quite full for the next few days, which provides many opportunities. For example, you can ponder the light-coloured highlands on the moon against the darker-coloured basins.
You also might use your imagination to see a picture in those splotches–maybe a lady reading a book or a man waving “hello.” It all depends on you.
As for myself, I can’t help but sing a bit of Neil Young’s swaying ballad, “Harvest Moon” (But now it’s gettin’ late/and the moon is climbin’ high/I want to celebrate/See it shinin’ in your eye).
I’ll continue to hum this tune this weekend as I watch for nighttime migrating birds.
A neighbour once commented that the hummingbirds at his cabin always leave during a bright moon. I noticed this year that is true–remarkably ours vanished the night of Sept. 23, which was our last full moon.
During this weekend’s moon, I hope to see silhouettes of other migrating birds–such as loons and ducks—with the help of binoculars and a telescope.
I’ll appreciate the early nightfall for this activity, and the way you can look straight into the moon with all its drama and diversity. Compared to the blaze of the sun, which never changes shape, the moon provides a friendly show.
How truly ironic: it’s the icy coolness of the moonlit sky–the ray surrounded by darkness–that holds our attention the longest.
I hope you can find time to enjoy the late autumn sky soon before the flurry of winter activity.
Surely it’s the best time of year for a clear and rhythmical view.
• • •
Let me know what you see from your lens by e-mailing me at joanna@escape.ca

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