I went out on the boat just minutes before the sun was to set. The sky was clear, the air cool and crisp, and the lake as smooth as glass. The orange glow along the horizon reflected on the water. I turned off the motor and let the boat drift as the sunset slowly gave way to darkness. I was the only boat on the lake.
Before long the real reason for my late afternoon boat trip became apparent. Over the opposite horizon another light began to appear, less than an hour after the sun disappeared. I was looking at the rising of the “Hunter’s Moon”, the full moon that occurs during the month of October.
The Hunter’s Moon follows the Harvest Moon which typically occurs in September. Technically, they are related to the autumnal equinox which is the start of Fall season. However, most years these two moons appear in September and then, October.
The Harvest Moon appears for several days around sunset. Legend has it that the name was because of the timing of the moonrise. The moon supplied farmers a bit of extra light for their harvest before the frost arrived.
The Hunter’s Moon is similar in that it also arrives just after dusk. It often appears larger and more orange than normal. That is known as the “moon illusion”. Who doesn’t remember a large moon rising over the horizon? It is actually a trick your mind plays on you. Your eyes compare the rising moon against items on the horizon, such as buildings, trees or chimneys. Once the same moon is overhead, your mind is comparing its size to the vast sky above.
The moon is actually further away as it appears above the horizon than when it is located directly overhead. The wavelengths of the light pass through more air particles which filters out more of the shorter blue wavelengths. The result is the longer wavelengths, which are red, become more prevalent during that time resulting in the orange moons that we love to see.
In the space of an hour, alone on a quiet lake as day gave way to night, I not only got to visit a clear sky sunset, a Hunter’s Moon, but also the ripples made by my boat on an otherwise undisturbed lake.
The glassy cover of the lake showed no disturbance thanks to the calm wind. As I cut the engine and lights, I noticed the ripples of my own short journey travel across the water spreading out in every direction.
If the sun’s disappearance and the moon’s arrival were not enough to put me in a thoughtful mood, then the ripples in the water did the trick. Uniformly the ripples spread out, following the direction I had taken in the boat. Since I was in the middle of the lake, I suppose the ripples traveled to the edge of the lake in every direction.
People often ask how I think of things to write about after 600 columns. Tonight, was as good an example as I can provide. Stories are all around us, just waiting to be seen or heard and to be told.
I left the dock at dusk only to unexpectedly see one of nature’s annual gifts, a Hunter’s Moon. After a beautiful sunset, the moon spread across the sky like ripples across the water. Occasionally, the story is written for you.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org