I live in Asheville, NC, in the house of my friend Karen. I rent the downstairs. The house is on a hill, once part of a mountain I’m sure, and we’re surrounded by old trees, mostly oaks and pines, and woods in the back, which makes it almost impossible to see the moon until it’s very late at night or very early in the morning and the globe is very high in the sky.
Last night, on an impulse, Karen and I decided to get in her car and chase down the golden glow, to try to find a spot from which we could bathe in the rays of the rising Wesak moon, the most powerful of the year.
It was 9:45 when we headed first to the open field across from the fire station about a quarter mile down the road. Although a patch of bright sky was visible there, the moon had not yet risen above the distant tree line. We then cruised back through our neighborhood, slowing down at each promising wedge between the green, but still no moon.
Turning around, we slowly navigated the steep hill that we usually climb on our walks, thinking that from a higher vantage point, we might have better luck. It was now after ten, and we were sure we’d get a clear sight line, but all we got were glimpses, beautiful glimpses, but glimpses none the less.
Moon Over Asheville
Again, we turned around, this time heading downhill. At the bottom, in a small section where the trees divided, we could see a shimmer of yellow. Stopping the car, we watched for awhile as the moon briefly sang to us from between swaying tree branches and thin clouds that traversed the bright sky. Soon, however, it shifted its position, again receding behind a clump of pines.
A little discouraged, we decided to drive back home in the hope that the moon had gotten high enough to see from the circular stone patio in the middle of Karen’s lovely back yard. We again drove slowly along our street, our eyes navigating sky holes that poked through the thick lace of new leaves. Then we saw it. To the side of a neighbor’s house, there was a clear view, and the moon showed itself in all its round and regal and golden splendor. We stopped the car and sat for a moment, taking in its majesty.
Suddenly, a man knocked gently on Karen’s car window, scaring her half to death. She rolled the glass half way down as the man, maybe in his early fifties with a slight paunch, flashed a badge and explained that he was a detective, and that he was visiting someone in the house next to the one we were parked in front of, and that he’d seen us cruising up and down the street several times, thought there might be something suspicious going on, and wanted to check it out.
Karen cracked the door open, unfortunately causing the inside car light to come on. As she confessed to him that we’d been chasing down the moon, trying to get a clear view, he began to laugh. What he saw inside the car must have been a sight—two women in bathrobes, Karen with a jacket on top of hers, both wearing no make-up, hair unkempt, looking like they’d possibly escaped from an asylum. We all began to chuckle.
Painting by John Atkinson Grimshaw
The detective, now satisfied that we did not present any immediate danger, began to walk away. Karen and I got out of the car to stand a while in the moonlight. Another male voice came from the side deck of the house in front of us.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” he called.
“You’ve got the best spot in the neighborhood,” I called back.
At the house next door, the detective (I wondered about the truth of that) had joined his female friend on the front lawn. Now both standing together, gazing skyward, we could hear him explain the situation, his voice projecting perhaps more loudly than he realized.
“It was just two little old ladies,” he said, “looking for the moon.”
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To watch a gorgeous HD YouTube video of John Atkinson Grimshaw’s moonlight paintings set to Debussy’s Claire de Lune by the London Symphony Orchestra click here