Hiking on the Blue Moon

A dog barks and a rooster crows. I open my door to the cold of night to bring the coolness into my over-warm house. The hum of morning rises as cars begin zipping over the roads. Coffee is on and my mind begins to open to the tasks of what I will do today on this day of the Blue Moon. I have decided to go for a walk around the town of Boise and the backcountry beyond, as a replacement for my normal walk on the solstice in the wilderness beside McCall. I had missed the longest day because of my absurd job hours, errands associated with selling my property, and a move from McCall to Boise. So this was my chance to walk through darkness and light and think for a long moment.

Today I will run, ride my bike, and walk until tomorrow’s sun rises on the first day of September. This is the opposite of my solstice walks during which I’ve walked from sunrise to sunset on the longest day of the year as a celebration of sunlight. The Blue Moon is the second moon that rises in a single month, and for that it is a rarity. But really, it is only the position of the months that have created this odd-seeming occurrence, as the moon does exactly what the moon does pretty consistently. My walk is symbolic and a matter of preference.

I take the garbage cans out to the curb and a man riding his bicycle mutters something to me as he passes. “What?” I say.

He circles back and repeats. “It’s a day for garbage isn’t it?”

“It sure is,” I say, not being at all creative before my first cup of coffee. I’m smiling when I return to the house. I notice that swarms of flies that had collected in my house, because of the doors being left open yesterday, now were absent. Must be the cool weather, but I prefer to think of it as a favorable outlook for the day. Maybe it’s both.

The day moved on like most others and now, after doing some work, I sit at the Boise Memorial Rose Garden where dozens of varieties of the flowers grow late in August. Their smells color the air. People have given them a variety of names for winning some sort of prize over the years: “Starry Night,” Opening Night,” and “Fame! A brilliant orange flower is named “Candelabra,” another rose is called “Knockout, another “Marmalade Skies.” “Growing Peace” combines yellow with pink on the same petals. There are “Strike it Rich,” “Moondance,” and my new favorite, “Hot Cocoa,” which is deep red and dusted with chocolate all over. The last I see is a classic red, red rose named “Loving Memory,” which seems to speak for itself. Its smell lingers like something lost.

Ever so lightly, it rains as the afternoon deepens. I know that the full moon is rising now beyond the clouds, beyond the mountains, beyond the city, but I can’t see it. After dinner with my friends at their home, I ride to a bar to listen to Bill Coffey on guitar and to meet a woman for drinks. She and I sit as if a piece of plate glass was secured between us and we hear nothing that each other says, although we see the gestures of hands and movements of mouths and hear rowdy rock-and-roll in subtle tones sung with a passionate voice. It is a lonely voice.

In time, we part and I ride up to the foothills. I stash my bike at the trailhead of Hulls Gulch and realize the nighttime scares me. I’m walking through the night. Crickets whir loudly and a single hum rises above the whirr with a rhythmic pulse, like a heartbeat among the turmoil of a war. Tall sagebrush allows cougars a place to hide. A young panther was killed in downtown Boise a couple of months ago and I’m sure the cats are here tonight with an agenda that is secretive, angry, and vengeful. I can feel them in this shadowy place with the full moon hiding. I walk with a big stick that I carry over my shoulder covering my vulnerable neck. (I hear that they always sneak up from behind, leap out and catch the victim by the neck and throat. By doing that they avoid a fight.) No one sees me hiking; no one is there in the midnight glow to file a report or watch my death. Clouds swoon and swarm, slither in odd patterns that howl out: “Danger!” It was odd then, that an enormous dark owl flies twice across my path; it is barely visible in this fallen light. I walk tenderly beyond and up to where the path breaks into two. Suddenly I turn around, feeling a presence. I fear that the end is near. But I don’t know which end it is and I turn around where the trail divides.

Maddingly, there is absolutely nothing to see. No ending. No omens, no screaming pterodactyls, no angry cougar, only a peaceful silence. It’s me who’s angry. The moon creeps out from behind clouds and lets out a sigh. Long blonde grasses bend to define a nest for a deer, maybe it was here earlier on this very night. Was it scared by cougars or bears? Such fear in the air! I look for a rattlesnake, see none, and lie down to sleep in the soft grass.

When I awaken the night is nearly gone—it is almost 5am! I slept for two hours and now a silvery light shines on the south facing mountains behind me. It is the full-blasting moon but it throws no heat. Shade in ripples define contours of Hulls Gulch. The moon is still well above the horizon, so I walk down the trail, through long shadows of cottonwood trees in the gulch, gaining more courage as I approach the city. I see my bike’s shadow and I get on the shadow and ride darkly on the winding path, up and down, beside a creek, out through Hyde Park and then to a deserted downtown.

One man waves and says “Good morning!” It is morning.

“Howdy,” I say and ride on in my swooping way down State Street. Orion stands in the middle of the sky, always hunting for something big.

At home, I hear the dog bark and the rooster crow again. I climb up and stand on my roof as the Blue Moon rides on top of the earth; it looks like a hot air balloon just being inflated. It holds there ever so briefly, and then the blue, blue moon deflates slowly into the land. I climb down and walk into my house and lie upon my sofa and drift into sleep wondering: are you patient and kind? Is she?

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