Today, the first day of autumn, was a hot one. At noon, the hilltop was steamy, gnats out in full force as we squinted into the camera for the colony group photo. Too hot for me, I retreated to my studio after lunch, and by the mid afternoon, the mugginess had gone grey with cloud cover and threats of rain that never materialized. I napped too long and missed dinner, walked up to the mainhouse and unwrapped the saran wrap off the plate thoughtfully left behind for me. After I was done eating and internetting, it was fully night, the temperature eased down and the thicker clouds erased – the harvest moon was fully bright and visible. I went in and convinced the painter and the playwright to come stand outside and see it with me, and the former pointed out Jupiter, the untwinkling dot, shining a few inches below the moon and said tonight was the closest the planet has come to us in fifty years. I tried to feel as Jupiter as I could. A dark cloud threatened to steal all the light, so I didn’t linger long at the top of the hill, I retreated to the barnhouse while there was still bright streams casting long shadows. Once I got back to the studio, I immediately wanted to be outside again and the sky seemed to be clearing up, despite that one patch that tricked me.
I dropped off my laptop, grabbed a hoodie and my cell phone, then marched across the dirt road and up into the meadow on the opposite hilltop, the old grass tennis court of Edna St. Vincent Millay, where you have an amazing view of the entire valley – including the cell tower in the distance, which means I actually have service. (There’s nothing like having to walk outside 500 yards away from your home just to send a text to curb you of that habit.) On the way up the path, I saw a tiny glint in the grass, a glow. A tiny firefly? I got closer, no that wasn’t it. It dimmed a little as I leaned in, I didn’t have a flashlight on me to look closer, but it reminded me of spider hunting – looking in the woods at night with a flashlight held up to your temple, right next to your eyes. As you look around slowly, patiently, within a minute or two, you should spot a reflecting glow on a leaf or a branch. If you freeze your vision on that speck and follow the light to the object, two tiny specks you realize, you will find a spider – their eyes cause the reflecting twinkle. I thought about this while squinting into the grass, but I wasn’t using a flashlight, so I couldn’t imagine that was the answer. I kept walking.
After sufficiently mooning over the moon, sending a few texts and a quick phone call, I turned to head back and glints of light caught my periphery vision. I looked and saw more glowing in the grass, not just one, but dozens, hundreds, of them twinkling. I walked slowly, tilting my head to see how my movement made them blink back and forth. My hand instinctively reached down and touched the grass: dew. The hot humid day had dropped twenty degrees in a couple hours, and there was late night dew on the grass. The harvest moon was so full and so bright, the drops sparkled as I walked, a phenomenon I see every fresh snowstorm in Chicago, but never on worn grassy paths at nighttime. Walking back to my room, I ignored the moon itself and focused on the indirect magic it created, a glittery path to home.