Outdoor lighting is something I think a lot of people overlook. The glow of even a half moon is plenty to cast strong shadows at night, and gives a sublime look to the world. While moonless nights can be incredibly dark, the light of the silver disc showcases a world just beyond the veil of normal life.
It’s hard to put it into words, but the environment looks different under moonlight. The sky is still tinted black, as are the browns and darker reds of fall coloring, but greens seem to glow, almost magically, adding an air of enchantment in an otherwise secluded locale.
I don’t have street lamps, or outdoor lighting, though I’ve considered adding some 12V light strips to the porch. So when I step out at night to feel the crisp air against my skin, I take note of how far I can walk without supplemental light.
I used to play Infocom games as a kid, and I’m reminded of a line from the Zork series of these text-story-based games. “It’s dark. You’re likely to be eaten by a grue.” There are dangers that lurk beyond the veil. I’ve had a bear take up residence thirty steps from my house. I’ve seen a large cat stalk across the garden outside. Hawks and eagles patrol the skies, and even the racoons give small critters second thoughts about wondering out for the night. Copperhead snakes are common on top of the hill, and while most are smart enough to slither away when they hear my footsteps, one of my largest worries is stepping on one in the dark.
As human beings, we huddle toward the glow of lit areas in much the same fashion as moths. We don’t wander far off the beaten path. We keep ourselves surrounded with safety and comfort. Out here, no such safe zone exists. Exposure is outside the front door.
The moon sets these dangers to a lower level, and thus I follow its transitions from night to night. I always know what phase it is in or near. I’m attuned to times of extreme darkness (which are great for astronomy) and the cold glow of basalt from a quarter of a million miles.
There is no light in the natural world quite like the moon. Its magical and sometimes eerie glow is like nothing else on the planet. There’s a feeling on moonlit nights, an emotional response, or perhaps a divine or otherwise alien feeling to the air. Sight works, but on a level not seen during the day. Vibrant colors turn to shades of gray or green. Wheat grass appears to glow in the field.
It’s a cold light, not that that of a nuclear sun or a burning flame. It carries no warmth with it, only enough light to see by. It nurtures the night air, that we might walk in it and explore the world typically occluded by the dark veil of nightfall. The great seas and bright mountains scarring its surface present a peculiar image worth pondering. When full, it makes the dark side of the Earth glow, and when new the Earth returns the favor, casting a barely-detectable sheen on its surface.
It is such a wonderful oddity. I believe most people ignore it with ease, but take a walk on the wild, explore your world, and stare in awe at the wonder of the moon sometime. It may in-turn stare into you.