by Pettus Read
Fall has officially arrived and it is my favorite time of the year. It always has been since I was a child, but it even became more special when I met my wife, because it was also her favorite time of the year as well. We both shared this change of the season in special ways. She decorated the house with colorful leaves, pumpkins, scarecrows and all sorts of fall related decorations. Cider purchases became first order of business for her grocery list and the season would not be properly celebrated without fresh sorghum and biscuits. But, most importantly, we both enjoyed numerous full "Harvest Moons" that occurred around the autumnal equinox each year. It was our time to take a moonlight walk outside and enjoy fall's nighttime shadows that were cast by a bright moon on our pathway, along with the chirps from a chorus of crickets singing a fall love song just for us.
A year ago this month, I lost my wife to pancreatic cancer and this fall seems a whole lot more "fall-ish" than it ever has before. But, the "Harvest Moon" still gives out its shadows and provides me with a lot of fond memories as I now walk those same paths by myself. A year before she passed away, I wrote a story about Uncle Sid and the Harvest Moon, which resembles my feelings this year in those shadows. Allow me this space and your time to share it with you once again for the fall memories.
It was mid-September and we had just finished an outstanding supper prepared by Aunt Sadie in the white-frame farm house that she and Uncle Sid had shared for now on 60 years, when I noticed that the old farmer was missing from the family gathering. It was odd not to see Uncle Sid over in his cane back rocker near the fireplace. That was "his spot" in the evening and especially when family members were visiting following an evening meal.
After asking Aunt Sadie where he may be and her suggesting outside near the barn, I made my way out into the backyard that was now showered with light from a full moon that you felt like you could reach up and touch. The large maple trees cast soft shadows across the yard and barn lot making it easy to find my way out to the barn. It was as if God's night-light had been left on for us to enjoy just a little more time in these last days of summer. From a distance, I could see Uncle Sid standing out by the horse lot with his foot upon the bottom plank. I stopped in the shadow of a tree just to admire the scene now taking place before me. Every now and then, I could see the red glow from his pipe, as he would take a draw and then blow smoke into the night air. His old dog Sue was sitting patiently by his side also taking in the nighttime solace and the two together, along with the moon-washed landscape, looked as if an artist had just touched his brush for the last time to his canvas and painted this scene. It was a peaceful image that just didn't seem right to interrupt; but the old farmer and his dog had seen me in the shadows, and with a movement of his hand, I was invited to join their company.
"Bright moon tonight," I said as I put my foot on the fence alongside his worn brogan.
"It's the Harvest Moon," Uncle Sid answered while puffing on his pipe and staring off in the distance at the large orange-colored moon. "I've always enjoyed being outside when the Harvest Moon first appears in the fall. It reminds me of days gone by when we depended on it to give us more time to get our crops harvested. Before farm equipment had lights, your ancestors depended on this moon to give them more time to get things done. It appears nearest the autumnal equinox. I read last night in the Old Farmer's Almanac that equinox means 'equal night,' when night and day are the same duration. It can be in October some years, but this year it is in September, with fall beginning on September 22."
He has always amazed me on his knowledge of real life and his ability to explain things in a way that anyone could understand. "Are all full moons named?" I asked.
"The Native Americans who lived around here, used the moons to keep up with the seasons," he went on to explain. "They named them all and each name had a meaning. Like next month we will have the Hunter's Moon. That was when they would go out and hunt to prepare for the winter. After that is the Frost or Beaver's Moon and in December we will have the Long Night's or Cold Moon due to days being shorter and nights longer. But, nowadays, folks don't fool with those things. We farm when we need to, and now with tractors that operate by satellites, modern technology has taken the moon out of the farming picture."
Taking a step back from the fence and looking at me, I could see a grin on his face in the moonlight and while knocking his pipe out on the heel of his shoe with little red sparks burning quickly away into the night air, he said, "I guess us farmers are still looking to the skies for our answers on making a crop. The only difference now is NASA has got involved. But, they are not as pretty to look at as a full Harvest Moon and they sure don't bring you as close to God as golden moonlight does either. I'll still keep trusting the moon."
And, you know, I think I will too. Plus, it's a great place to take a walk with someone you love. Give it a try.