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Retirement Moon

Updated: Aug 30, 2018

This full moon is the closest one to my retirement date. I woke up early and went outside for a nice long gaze at it just a few minutes ago. Its cool soothing glow filled my weary, aching eyes. Its gentle tidal pull lifted dreams from my mind, spilling them out across the meadow below. I could almost see them drifting lazily down hill and eastward on their way out of the canyon.

Snapping out of my reverie, I decided to try to take a photo of it before if disappeared behind the trees guarding the western ridgeline. A quick dash back to the house to get the camera, load the freshly charged battery into it, back out to the high side of the meadow where it was still visible above the trees and click, click, click. Three shots yielded one decent result. Didn't use a tripod or any manual focus and f-stop settings. Just plain old hand-held auto shots. Not as sharp as I had hoped but not too bad for a pair of progressively tremor-prone old hands and one eye completely clouded over by a cataract. The blur will help me recall the vaselined lens-like vision of cataracts long after corrective surgery (hopefully) restores my vision this winter.

Full moons have always been important to me because the reflected sunlight provided enough ground illumination for some intriguing night time wilderness hiking and flat water canoeing. Most of the time I ventured out with at least two artificial light sources before such treks and usually did so only in territory I had already become acquainted with during daylight hours. I rarely needed the artificial lights and rarely wanted to resort to using them, trying always to head out and make it safely back to camp by nothing but the light of the full moon. I wasn't trying to become proficient at moonlight trekking, I just liked doing it.

Down in the lowlands I worried very little about wildlife encounters on such outings except for one canoe trip south of Athens, Texas on Catfish Creek in the Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area where lots of alligators lived. I hadn't expected them to be there so far north of the gulf coast or present in such large numbers and lengths. I managed to keep the artificial lights off throughout that float after dark as I eased along teasing catfish with stink-baited treble hook dragging creek bottom, but every time a gator heard me coming around a bend and crashed back into the black waters with much noise making, I flinched and reached for the switch on my headlamp just in case–ready to turn it on if one of them decided to attack the canoe. None did, and that was one of the finest moonlit floats of my life. The mosquitoes were not bad that night and I caught a beautiful string of six large bluecat, feasting on them for several days back at my temporary home near Richland where I was doing topography work on the Richland-Chambers reservoir construction project.

Here in the mountains I have to be more careful since larger predators are active at night and the drought continues. Bear and mountain lion are most worrisome of the lot, although porcupine weigh heavy on my mind too. I nearly walked right into a very large one in western Colorado one night 32 years ago while hiking along the rim of Red Canyon under a full moon. The tips of its top-most quills would have penetrated at crotch level and its batting tail would have certainly lodged dozens, possibly hundreds, of quills in legs and ankles. Not a happy prospect since I was a couple of miles from camp. Luckily it was a totally cloudless night and the creature was moving a bit when I spotted the massively prickly thing in the all-gray and black hues of glorious moonlight, allowing ample time and space to carefully veer around without disturbing it.

Something about moonlight outings and wildlife encounters like those make them stick hard in my brain cells, thoroughly kindling strong neuron connection nets for easy recall decades later with great clarity. I'm looking forward to many more of them after retirement.

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