The first full moon after snow covers the ground is like a magnet. I can’t wait to get out and take a pony ride. There’s something magical about crunching down the road with the silvery light of the moon illuminating our way. The moonlight is so bright compared to summer and fall because it reflects off the snow. This time I noticed that the moon even outshone the solar lamps that light my haystacks for evening feedings. The temperatures this time of year are usually bearable for a ride on a pony, too; later in the winter neither the pony or me is as interested in venturing out.
For some reason, the shadows of trees catch my attention more under moonlight than sunlight. Different types of shadows are cast by different kinds of trees: live pines have dense shadows, dead pines have filtered ones. Aspen look skeletal, and fir are tall and narrow like cones pointed to the sky. The pine that we strung up after it was knocked over last spring by heavy snow casts a different shadow than its neighbors: almost no light shines through because the tree hangs at an angle to the sky despite our rescue efforts.
Sally Swift’s “Soft Eyes” from her Centered Riding usually comes to mind when I’m traveling by moonlight. I watch my pony’s ears with soft eyes more religiously since riding by moonlight isn’t something we do often. I’ve learned there is a progression when something is of concern. Usually my pony perks her ears first then she will raise her head. If concern continues to escalate there is then a change in her feet. By then I’m hopefully prepared to ride out or redirect whatever happens next.
When I was studying biodynamic farming several years ago, I learned to watch the moon. First I became aware of the pattern of its phases. Then I learned that during some cycles it runs high in the sky and in other cycles it runs low, closer to the southern horizon (at least in this hemisphere). I was also taught that celestial transitions, whether changes in the phase of the moon or eclipses or other planetary events, can ‘restring the harp of the universe.’ Often, but not always, the restringing manifests as significant changes in the weather. I’ve learned to not wait until the full moon to ride, as the weather can be incompatible with an enjoyable outing. I try to answer the magnet’s call midway between first quarter and full. Sure enough, this time I had a fabulous ride two days before the full moon. Six inches of snow fell the next night. Tonight, two days after the full moon, we’re supposed to have a blizzard.
I was treated to a beautiful sight as I finished my ride the other night. Orion with his belt was lying bright above the horizon. I’ve learned to associate this constellation with winter, and to seek out its company during evening feeding when the skies are clear. This night, the Hunter seemed to be pointing earnestly toward the dawn, perhaps reminding me that there is nearly always an opportunity for a new beginning. As my pony’s hooves crunched the last few feet through the snow, I felt very thankful to be traveling by moonlight.