When the Moon Follows Me
Mary E. Potter
Each of my sons made the discovery early. We would be riding in the car at night, and a little voice would call out from the back seat, “Hey, the
moon is following us!” I would explain that the moon was not actually gliding along with our car. There would be another period of critical observation and the final verdict, delivered more quietly this time: “But it really is moving. I can see it.”
I thought of that one evening as I was driving. The moon, one day short of fullness, rode with me, first gliding smoothly, then bouncing over the bumpy stretches, now on my right, then straight ahead, the silver light washing over dry grasses in open fields, streaking along through black branches, finally disappearing as the road wound its way through the hills.
When I crested the hill in the village, there it was again —— grown suddenly immense, ripe, flooding the town with a sprawling light so magical I began to understand why it is said to inspire “looniness.” I could hardly wait to get back home to show the boys.
Robert was in the bathtub, so I grabbed John. “ Close your eyes and come see what followed me home,” I said, hoping to increase the dramatic impact. I led him out into the night. “Okay. Open! Isn’t it beautiful?”
John blinked a few times and looked at me as if I might, indeed, be loony. “Mom, it’s just the moon. Is this the surprise?” I suppose he was hoping for a puppy.
I should have realized that, being only ten, he was probably too young to know how much we sometimes need the magic and romance of moonlight——a light that is nothing like the harsh glare of the sun that it reflects. Moonlight softens our faults; all shabbiness dissolves into shadow. It erases the myriad details that crowd and rush us in the sunlight, leaving only sharp outlines and highlights and broad brushstrokes——the fundamental shape of things.
Often in the soothing, restorative glow we stare transfixed, bouncing our ambitions and hopes and plans off this great reflector. We dream our dreams; we examine the structure of our lives; we make considered decisions. In a hectic, confusing world, it helps to step out into a quiet, clear swath of moonlight, to seek out the fundamentals and eschew the incidentals.
The night after I showed John the moon, he burst breathlessly through the door, calling, “Mom, come out for a minute!” This time, he led me, coatless and shivering. The driveway gravel crunched underneath our sneakers. From somewhere in the woods beyond the pond, the plaintive calls of geese honked and died away.
Past the row of pine trees that line the road, the sky opened up with the full moon on it, suspended so precariously close that it might come hurtling toward us—— incand
escent, even larger and more breathtaking than the night before, climbing its motionless climb over the molten silver of our pond. Even a ten-ye