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The Farthermost View

Essays and Stories




Black-crowned Night Heron and Moon

My little dog Pippin has been waking me up at night recently with less-than-subtle heavy breathing, which is his way of announcing that he needs to go outside. He's always had a rather delicate digestive system, so this behavior is not terribly unusual. And I must say that I'm much less reluctant to get up in the dog days of summer than in the three dog nights of February.


A couple of nights ago when we stepped outside I was rewarded by the sight of an approximately full moon rising above the roof of the second-home people to my east. I walked down the driveway a little, so as not to see the moon through tree branches, which I read long ago will cause bad luck. I don't know where I read that. I also read that if you light a candle and look into a mirror just at midnight you'll see beside you the face of the man you're going to marry, but because I also knew that if you're looking into a mirror and there was a vampire behind you, you'd never know it, because they don't have reflections, I never tried it. The candle thing. So I never knew who I was going to marry until I did it.


Anyway, taking Pippin outside allowed me to see a fullish moon in all its glory, or at least as much of its glory as one can see in a tree-studded neighborhood.


Another night, the waning moon was still bright, though blurred by humidity, and nearby was a brilliant spot that turned out, upon later research, to be the planet Venus. I gazed at them for a few moments and then followed Pippin into the yard. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could hardly believe them:  at the edge of the yard where the viburnums and dogwoods and winterberries have amalgamated into a thicket, from down at grass level to ten feet up in the trees was a veritable network of little yellow flashes. Fireflies!


I may be forgetting a few sightings, but I don't remember seeing fireflies for years. Of course that might be because I go to bed so early, but I know there are fewer fireflies than there were in my long-ago childhood, before people sprayed the hell out of their yards with deadly poisons guaranteed to kill mosquitoes and ticks and cicadas and wasps and...fireflies. I was glad to see that my flashy old friends haven't disappeared completely from the face of the earth.


Pippin came ambling out of the darkness and we went inside and back to bed. I hope Pippin doesn't have too many more of these urgent nighttime excursions, but they do have their silver, and gold, linings.

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