Beaver Moon

“Do not swear by the moon, for she changes constantly. then your love would also change.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

I had read that there would be a lunar eclipse – not a total eclipse, but one that would last longer than any in history (well, at least in 580 years – good enough for me). I also read that it would occur well after midnight on a work night, so I didn’t think any more about it.

The sun was well set (even though there was a pink and purple glow left all around the horizon) as I walked to my car across my work parking lot. The moon was rising in the east and singularly full and beautiful, I even texted Candy to go look at it.

Then, at home I was so exhausted that after watching a bit of college basketball I fell into a hard, deep sleep. I woke up at two thirty in the morning and realized that I had to do a load of laundry (I had no shirts for the next work day) and that I had left my phone in my car.

After starting the washer going I stumbled out to my car to fetch my phone so I could charge it for the upcoming day. I had forgotten about the lunar eclipse but as I looked up from the sidewalk it looked like an irregular swipe had been taken across the lunar orb. The eclipse was more than half complete and it combined with the dark lunar seas to make an unexpected uneven border. It was really odd and interesting.

My new phone has an amazing set of (5) cameras and has examples of fantastic shots all over the internet. Unfortunately, I’m a boomer and still trying to figure the damn thing out… and this is the best I could do:

Eclipse of the Beaver Moon.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Harvest Moon, by Scotch Rutherford

But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon

― Neil Young, Harvest Moon

The moon rising over the Dallas skyline and the pond at Trammell Crow Park. From the October Full Moon Ride.

Full Moon Tonight. It’s the Harvest Moon. I remember when we would go on bike rides at night on full moon nights. The last year and a half – it’s been so bad… Sometimes I feel I’ll never do anything fun again.

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Wednesday, December 4, 2002. A longish entry, about falling stars.

Leonids

I have always wanted to go camping during a meteor shower. I’ve tried to schedule a trip to West Texas, Big Bend, during one but the timing has never been right. One year I did drive out with Nicholas, then only a tad bigger than a toddler, and ended out in a cornfield east of Rockwall; but Nicholas was impatient, we were still in the pool of city light, and ended up seeing nothing. Last year I was ready to go out and see the Leonids, but the state was swathed in a belt of thick clouds and nothing would have been visible.

Last Month I read that this year was going to be the last predicted good Leonid storm for a long time, and I didn’t want to miss it. I have a snotload of vacation left that I have to take before the end of the year so I scheduled a day off the next day and drove out after work into East Texas, heading for Lake Tawakoni State Park, where we had gone family camping a while back.

The park office was closed when I pulled in so I dutifully filled out a little envelope, put my fifteen dollars in (nine for the campsite, five for the entry fee, and one because I didn’t have change) and dropped it into the heavy metal tube. The park was almost completely empty – only a few RV’s scattered here and there. I picked a spot on the first loop, choosing one right next to the trail to the bathrooms. It only took me a few minutes to set up my tent.

While I wrestled with the aluminum poles I spotted a bright meteor crackling down between two trees. I watched for a while but didn’t see anything else. The peak was supposed to come somewhere around three AM, so I set the alarm on my IPAQ PDA and settled down in my tent to read myself to sleep. Even if I didn’t see another meteor, at least I had spotted one – and my trip wouldn’t be completely wasted. I tried calling home but was on the very edge of cell service. I could hear Nick answer on the other end, “Hello! Hello! Who is it?” but he couldn’t hear anything I said.

It wasn’t much longer until a big diesel pickup rumbled by, screeched its brakes, backed up, and started shining a powerful spotlight on my tent. I dragged myself out and walked over to the official truck.
“I paid in the box out front,” I said.
“Oh,” said the bearded, grizzled man in the truck.
“You here for the meteor shower too?” he continued.
“Yeah,” I said.
“They say this will be the biggest one for thirty years,” he said, “and we’ll be at another park by then, for sure. There’s a bunch in the other camping loop that’s going to meet down at the dock at three and I think the wife and I will go down there to watch.”
“Thanks.”
“Well, have a good night.”

It was starting to get cold, so I slithered back into my bag and fell deeply asleep until my IPAQ started buzzing.

The full moon was out and very bright. The park was lit with what looked like a flat blue daylight. It was light enough for me to easily move around and set stuff up. If I had had a newspaper, I could have read it without trouble. There were some engines running and people moving around down towards the lake, and I thought about joining the folks down at the dock but ultimately decided to go it alone. The trees at Tawakoni are thick so I set my folding chair up in the middle of the park road and wrapped myself up in a blanket and my unzipped sleeping bag. My folding chair leans way back which is unpleasant for what I usually use it for (it stays in the trunk of the Taurus) – watching soccer games – but was perfect for stretching back and looking up at the sky. Some small animal, probably a possum (too quiet for an armadillo) shuffled around in the grass beside the road, and then shambled back into the woods.

The bright moon washed out a lot of the stars. It would be impossible to spot any faint meteors. I thought for a few minutes that there wouldn’t be anything and I’d go back home empty-eyed. But after a few minutes the shower started.

The meteor shower wasn’t spectacular; it didn’t make me think of the Fourth of July. Still, it had a powerful ephemeral beauty. There would be a pause, a minute or so, when nothing would happen, then maybe a single quick transient streak across the sky. That would be followed by a little burst – a cluster of four or five and the activity would keep up for a few minutes until it tapered off for another pause. A few falling stars were big enough to scream across a big arc of the sky, leaving behind a little trail of sparks for a split-second. I know they were silent but I could imagine a crackling sound as those fell.

It was obvious how the meteors appeared to flow from a single point, in Leo. They would radiate out, the big ones lingering, traveling across a big chunk, the tiny ones merely a fugacious slash across the dark. It was this temporary nature of the display that fascinated me – a tiny sliver of an instant… then they are gone. I had a big grin on my face, half-frozen there by the cold air.

I watched for a little over an hour or so until the show petered out. I never really went back to sleep – it wasn’t long before the sky began to lighten in the east and I packed everything up. Driving back into the city, I realized that I could go on in to work – it was early enough.

I decided to take the day off anyway.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Harvest Moon, by Scotch Rutherford

from Every Day Fiction

Scotch Rutherford page

And the Moon Rises

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekhov

One of my favorite bicycle rides is the Full Moon Ride – put on most months by the fine folks at Bike Friendly Downtown Dallas. The idea is for a group to meet downtown and to ride down into the Trinity River Bottoms and watch the full moon rise over the buildings of downtown. here and here It’s a lot of fun – especially since the trails in the river bottoms are a blast to ride at night – but it’s not exactly a place where most folks feel safe riding alone in the dark.

I struggle with a desire to take photos of the moon rising over the city – or of the folks riding their bikes. It’s a struggle – the lighting conditions are not good (it’s dark) and I still have not figured out a good way to carry a decent tripod on my bicycle.

There was a ride last month, on Friday the 13th, and thinking about it – I went out and bought an inexpensive portable tripod. Unfortunately you get what you pay for and the thing was not sturdy enough for timed exposures with my heavy DSLR. Only one shot – taken before the sun had completely disappeared (and before the moon appeared) was even good enough to stave off deletion.

Downtown Dallas from the Trinity River Bottoms – click to enlarge

I see there is another full moon this weekend. Here are the details via MoonCalc. I might skip taking my camera this time and simply try to enjoy myself. That is always the problem with carrying a camera – you can get so caught up in taking a photo you miss the fun of life itself.

On the other hand, I need to take my good tripod out and practice night photography. Once I get the bugs worked out and some skills developed maybe I’ll give it a go again.

A Cloud Flower

“Mushrooms were the roses in the garden of that unseen world, because the real mushroom plant was underground. The parts you could see – what most people called a mushroom – was just a brief apparition. A cloud flower.”

― Margaret Atwood,  The Year of the Flood

Mushrooms along the creek in back of my house.

When I was a little kid, my parents had a friend that knew what eatable mushrooms looked like, in contrast with poisonous ones. We lived next to a golf course and I remember him coming over with some others, they woke me up at four in the morning and we headed out to the golf course with flashlights and little plastic buckets. I’m not sure why (or even if I remember this accurately) but there were mushrooms everywhere. I didn’t even need my flashlight – it was if they glowed in the moonlight. We filled up our buckets and headed home. The expert examined the pile… one by one, to insure we all had “good” mushrooms.

What an odd memory. Maybe it never even happened… but I hope it did. I don’t remember eating the mushrooms… but back in those days the adults kept the delicacies for themselves.

Sweat Up the Hills and Coast Down Them

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Fullmoon Bicycle Ride, Dallas, Texas

The line of bicycles behind me, heading down the Trinity Skyline Trail, heading for a certain spot and waiting for the moon to rise.

We Ran As If To Meet the Moon

“We ran as if to meet the moon.”
― Robert Frost

Moon rising over the skyline of Downtown Dallas.

The Full Moon rising over downtown Dallas. The white streaks at the bottom are the other riders in the Full Moon Ride leaving. Thirty second exposure. Need to work – should have used a higher ISO – the long exposure caused the moon to smear. Next time. — at the Trinity Skyline Trail.

One of my favorite local bike rides is the Full Moon ride. Every month a friend of mine organizes a ride through the Trinity River Bottoms near downtown Dallas at sunset on the night of the full moon. I lug my camera along and try and get interesting photographs – still a lot to learn.

Seven in Seven

Where are we going? Life, the timeless, mysterious gift, is still evolving. What wonders, or terrors, does evolution hold in store for us in the next ten thousand years? In a million? In six million? Perhaps the answer lies in this old house in this old and misty valley…
—-Control Voice, The Outer Limits, The Sixth Finger

Oblique Strategy: Use Fewer Notes

I am not a fan of internet memes, challenges, viral videos, cat images, or Rick Ashtley.

However, when I was invited to do the “Seven ‘Days, Seven Black and White Photos” on Facebook, I decided to do the thing.

Because I wanted to.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

A Full Moon, Gravel, and S’mores

“Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain’t no free rides, baby. No hitchhiking. And if you want to strike out in any new direction — you go alone. With a machete in your hand and the fear of God in your heart.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction

The moon rising over cyclists and the Dallas skyline. From the October Full Moon Ride. (click to enlarge)

Oblique Strategy: Assemble some of the elements in a group and treat the group

The moon rising over the Dallas skyline and the pond at Trammell Crow Park. From the October Full Moon Ride.

My Cannondale road bike at Trammell Crow Park. From an early part of the October Full Moon Ride.

There is a monthly bike ride held at dusk on the first day of each full moon. It starts in a park in Downtown Dallas and heads out into the wilds of the Trinity River Bottoms where we can watch the moon rise over the city.

I had a blast on the October ride and was looking forward to the next one. It was a little more ambitious. We would head out on the gravel roads that line the levees along the river. Because of the crushed rock, I wouldn’t be able to ride my vintage Cannondale and would have to use my heavy, fat-tired commuter/cargo bike.

My heavy Commuter Bike with Dallas skyline in the background

We would ride ten miles to an abandoned golf course where we would have a campfire and make s’mores before riding back. I was a bit concerned – twenty miles, much of it off-road, is a long way for me to ride on my heavy, thick tired repurposed mountain bike. Despite all my despirte fanfaronade I am the world’s slowest bicycle rider, especially on an inefficient vehicle. Even riding the best of bicycles – the engine is old and worn out.

I rode the DART train downtown, as the sun was setting, met up with about a dozen folks, and set out. The gravel wasn’t too bad, but it was jarring and a job to control the handlebars, especially in the dark. I have a good headlight on my bike and the world was reduced to a pool of small rocks moving toward me while all around was invisible, inky blackness. It was fun. I slowed to the back of the pack and realized that if I cut my speed a little bit the ride became smoother.

The gravel road in the Trinity River Bottoms
(click to enlarge)

So, I was slow, but not too much. There is a bridge about every mile through the river bottoms and we would stop so everyone could catch up. We made our destination on time, and the s’mores were delicious.

Roasting marshmallows for s’mores. (Photo from Bike Friendly Downtown Dallas)

The only hitch was that I didn’t get any photos. I had brought my camera, a small Gorillapod, and a remote shutter release. I spent too much time having fun, and had to rush setting up my camera. I put the tripod on an old air conditioning unit, and before I could shoot, the release fob slipped out of my hand and disappeared inside. I took that as an omen, and packed it all back up.

We rode concrete back – by then the traffic was light. Only when we neared the American Airlines Center (the Dallas Stars were playing hockey and the game let out at the same time we passed) did we run into angry, aggressive drivers.

So, now I’m looking forward to next month. I need to put my nighttime photographic, time exposure kit together and practice, so I’ll be ready.

Street Lights As Planets And Stars

“There was a sky somewhere above the tops of the buildings, with stars and a moon and all the things there are in a sky, but they were content to think of the distant street lights as planets and stars. If the lights prevented you from seeing the heavens, then perform a little magic and change reality to fit the need. The street lights were now planets and stars and moon. ”
― Hubert Selby Jr., Requiem for a Dream

I was riding my bike west down Gaston under that awful elevated freeway and when I emerged I saw the final stages of sunset over the crystal spires of the city. The moon was a tiny thumbnail shaving floating in the sky. I pulled over into a weedy lot and fished my camera out of my pack.

As I was shooting, a guy in a car at the light said, “I was coming in from the east on I30 and the sun was a big orange ball behind the city.”

I nodded and tried to think of something witty to say, but the light went green and he shouted, “Gotta go.”

Downtown Dallas at sunset.

Downtown Dallas at sunset.