Essay: An Early Morning Walk

First posted in October, 2006

I woke at dawn this morning, not feeling fully rested.

I pulled on my robe and walked down the hall, enjoying the quiet of house. No one else was up, despite the first rays of light creeping through the window. It seemed that there was something peculiar about the quality of the light... the color, perhaps. I dismissed the thought, assuming that if it was important I'd figure it out a couple of minutes later as I woke up some more. What time was it, anyway?

I looked down at my watch. Four-thirty.

Four-thirty? The sun doesn't rise until after sev - aha.

I walked quickly to the large picture window in the living room, easily negotiating objects left on the floor by the kittens - plenty of light by which to see. And there it was: the remains of the harvest moon that I'd missed the night before. I sat for a bit, watched it move in and out of light mist, casting shadows and silhouettes along the tree line.

It occurred to me that I didn't have a very clear view - the constraints of the window, the roof line, the objects on the porch, and the double-paned glass were altering the scape. I stepped out into the night. The air felt surprisingly warm, so I sat on the porch for a few minutes, then ventured down the front walk a bit. As I stepped away from the house and walked out into the open, I was suddenly afforded a view of the mountain, the snow at its peak shining in the moonlight.

I went back inside, traded my robe for a fleece and a pair of corduroys, and found my boots. I woke Sam to ask if he wanted to come with me, but he was lost in dreams and quickly fell back asleep. I enjoy sharing these moments with him, but going alone allows for better focus. I would go for a stroll whether he wanted to come with me or not.

I checked the thermometer. Thirty-six Fahrenheit, two Centigrade. It felt much warmer, but I threw on a coat, retrieved my camera and a cannister of bear spray, and headed back out into the night.

There was absolutely no wind, which explained the deceptive warmth. The trees stood silent, their silhouettes motionless.

I began my walk, boots whispering through the grass, then grinding in the gravel of the driveway, then moving inconspicuously against the paved road... their steady rhythm overrun by the softness of the nearby river. I wanted to see the river, wanted to see the moonlight on its surface. I turned south, toward the bridge. We walked, my companions and I... the moon above me on my right, the snow of the mountain above me on my left, both reflecting light in the darkness and illuminating my way.

I began to notice more sounds. I was certainly not the only one awake. All around me I could hear the scurrying of animals, the occasional snapping of a twig. Noises in the forest are funny things - a squirrel can crash through the underbrush as loud as a grizzly, while the bear can tread as softly as a vole. You never really know what you're listening to unless you can actually see it, and the moonlight did not penetrate the canopy. The inhabitants of the woods remained a mystery, but in truth there's nothing in the forest at night that is not also present during the day.

The clouds began to move in, began to obscure the moon. The light was slowly fading. I strolled, silently, though I knew deep down that the last thing I wanted to do was startle a bear in the increasing darkness. I'm always torn between being silent and making my presence known in the forest. I compromised by remaining quiet, but slowing my pace in the hope that any bears would hear my footsteps or catch my scent and have time to ascertain what I was before I actually arrived.

My scent. I could smell the eucalyptus on my skin from the shower I'd taken a few hours before. I stopped and took it in, that scent mixing with the earth and drying leaves around me. I felt my lungs expand, and the echo of the river seemed to crescendo. The moment ended, and I noticed that I truly was running out of moonlight.

I turned and headed home, sorry that I had not been able to see the reflection of the moon in the waters of the Taiya, but at the same time euphoric at the experience I had had. It was as if the moon had awakened me, had gently coaxed me out of the house and down the road. That it had been there for me and me alone. We whispered our goodbyes, and it slipped beneath the clouds. The world fell dark, and I retreated once more to the warmth of my bed, with time remaining before the dawn.