Saturday, October 16, 2010

MOON RINGS AND MOUTHY HERONS


A platinum-bright October moon was already high in the sky when I went out to retrieve the mail, trash barrel, and recyclables bin the other evening. I paused midway up the hill to watch it slip along through the darkness beyond the tall sycamore's tangle of leafy branches. If you've never been able to detect the moon's movement during such casual observations, you've simply never stood still long enough to carefully watch—of course I suppose it says something about me and my susceptibility to impromptu inertia that I regularly notice the moon's astronomical slow creep.

On this night the moon was half-full, and reminded me of the slices of candied citron my mother always put in her Christmas fruit cakes. I saw, too, that it was encircled by a halo, a misty, pinkish-purple glowing ring caused by the refraction of light shining through ice crystals in the upper atmosphere.  Country lore says a moon ring's appearance indicates a spell of bad weather is on the way. And that is often—though not always—the case. But hey, even the National Weather Service with all its latest and greatest technology doesn't get it right all the time. 

It is also said that if you count the number of stars you see shining within the circle of the moon ring, it will correspond to the number of days until the storm arrives. I didn't remember to do this until after I'd continued on up to the road, collected the day's mail, retrieved barrel and bin, rolled and lugged the receptacles to their storage spot near the back door, deposited the mail on the hallway counter, washed my hands, and gone back outside armed with the camera for a quick shot. By that time the halo had faded. So, no star count, only a photo.

At this point, from just across the nearby river, a great blue heron suddenly cut loose with a series of guttural imprecations which left no doubt as to what he thought of all my comings and goings that were apparently disturbing his sleep. The mouthy bird continued rasping expletives at me as he flew a hundred yards upstream. 

I don't know if moon rings are trustworthy oracles…but I do know offended herons never go quietly.  
———————

15 comments:

Scott said...

More wonderful ruminations,Grizz! I went out late last evening, too, and enjoyed the same moon. It was very windy and very cool--perfect weather in my book.

Choices said...

At some of the blogs that I go to I have noticed your name, so I decided to come over for a visit. What a beautiful blog you have. The night sky is so beautiful. I love to just look up and marvel at it's beauty. Are you a photographer?
Have a wonderful day.

Scott said...

Your encounter with the perturbed Great Blue Heron brought to mind a similar encounter that I had in Florida. When my wife and I moved to Florida, our apartment backed onto a wetland tangle. One evening, as we slept, we were awoken by the eerie, haunting--and very distressing--sound of a baby crying out in the swamp. Only the next morning, when I related the story to my colleagues, did I learn that such "crying" was the distinctive call of a Limpkin.

George said...

I love this photo, Grizz, especially the way it is framed. Light in a large field of darkness — are there any better metaphors than that?

The Solitary Walker said...

Grizz,I found that such a lovely and inspired piece of writing - wonderful stuff. But did you mean hero or heron though? I want to know if it was intentional or a felicitous typo! You, yourself, are a true hero for doing all that bin-rolling and recyclables-sorting, however...

Grizz………… said...

Scott & Scott…

It's getting cooler here, too—no wind during the night yet, although it wouldn't be October without a few of those spooky windy nights when dried leaves rattle like old bones, clouds go scudding across the moon, and luminous spirit fog hovers over black river pools And indeed, perfect weather.

I've never heard a limpkin, and had no idea they made such a sound. Frankly, I had no idea blue herons were so noisy throughout the night until I began living here on the river—but they are, squawking and fussing at the top of their lungs fairly frequently. Sometimes one will set another off and you'll have a couple of 'em hacking and rattling out there within 15-20 yards of the cottage. It used to drive Moon the dog nuts—she'd leap up, run to the front of the house, and begin barking. I can't tell you how many times we've been awakened by herons. And seldom do I managed to let the dog out or step outside after dark without setting one off. They're way better than a burglar alarm.

Grizz………… said...

Choices…

First off, welcome to the riverbank! I'm glad you enjoyed this first visit and hope you come by often. You're always genuinely welcome.

The night sky is, indeed, awesome…though more and more, it's becoming harder to really get a good view. I often camp along the shores of Lake Superior, where you're hundreds of miles from a big city, the darkness is absolute, and the air is about as crystal-pure as it gets. There, the Milky Way is a broad band of incredible light, stars really show their colors, and the moon looks close enough to touch. I can spend hours—and do!—sitting by a small campfire, listening to the purl of a little creek nearby, the yip and howl of coyotes off in the tamarack swamp, and looking up at the countless gleaming stars sweeping overhead. It really puts me back into a proper perspective.

Am I a photographer? Of sorts, and writer. But neither is really my call to make…your conclusion, along with the opinions of all those who stop by to look and read, are the only judgment that counts.

Again, welcome!

Gail said...

HI RIZZ-

I love the picture of that October half moon against the very black sky. Haunting.
I did not know that the stars in the moon's hazy ring correlated with the days before a storm arrives - you are such plethera (sp) of information.:-)

And I love reading about your evening chores and how attending to them disturbed that heron and he/she let you know. Have a wonderful weekend. Jen will be here around noon or so to begin our pasta bake extravaganza. :-)

Love you
Gail
peace.......

Grizz………… said...

George…

I do wish I'd have managed to capture the misty halo—but otherwise, this turned out okay. I did crop to get the proportions of moon and darkness I thought worked best on the blog layout.

Yes, a light in the darkness is, IMO, the ultimate metaphor. It says so much about the human need for place and security and possibly companionship.

Grizz………… said...

Solitary…

Egads! Nope, meant "heron," and I have corrected forthwith. Thank you so much for saying something…I hate making typos, even felicitous ones! That's the trouble with editing your own stuff—you just read in the right word, regardless of what's actually on the page/screen. I can't tell you how many times I went through this prior to posting—maybe a dozen—but it's always way better to have someone else proofread.

No heroism involved in trash barrel/recyclables bin rolling…just duty to chores I'd forgotten to do while it was still daylight. Myladylove had not yet arrived home, and I simply didn't want to get caught slacking. What's actually astonishing is that I remembered.

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

Don't know that I'd put too much stock in the star-counting business…but the moon ring business is pretty accurate, simply because the same upper atmospheric conditions that cause the halo, are those conditions preceding a storm.

My daughter likes to say I'm a "fount of useless wisdom." If you leaves out sports and trendy entertainment, I'm a killer at Trivia. I can tell you the name of the only town in America (and I expect the world) that ever hung an elephant as the ultimate punishment, but I haven't a clue who won last year's World Series.

I await with eager palate your pronouncement on the pasta recipe…

The Weaver of Grass said...

How I envy you that noise Grizz - I have never heard the sound a heron makes - we have the grey one on our beck but he always seems to be silent.
And reminding me of those citrus slices in cakes has made my mouth water too.

Grizz………… said...

Weaver…

Great blue herons and belted kingfishers are both larger birds and quite common here along the river. Between them, they make a surprising racket throughout the day—and in the case of the heron, throughout the night. Add to that the maniacal yelping call of the pileated woodpeckers (also huge) plus at least a dozen other different birds on any given day, chirruping, whistling, screeching, and otherwise fussing and calling, and you begin to get the idea that while the riverbank life may be one of beauty and adventure, it's seldom encountered in silence.

I think I may have done myself in thinking about and then mentioning those citron slices…I expect I'll soon have to bake a fruitcake.

Bernie said...

Grizz my dad used to say the same thing whenever there was a ring around the moon or as you say halo and he was usually right.
Enjoy your Fall Grizz....:-) Hugs

Grizz………… said...

Bernie…

Your father knew what he was talking about. As I said in the post, this is one of those bits of old wisdom that's usually reliable.

Hope you're enjoying your fall, too!

Take care…