For most of my boyhood I lived with my family in a house built by my father out in the countryside of southwestern Michigan. It’s perched on the crest of a hill about five miles north of Buchanan and surrounded by farmland and virgin forest. Five miles may not seem like a lot these days, but when we first moved in one would have to navigate a two-lane country road and then two more gravel roads to reach it by car or tractor. Later, the county would pave Glendora Road, but Aalf’s Road, where we lived, remains a graveled one-laner to this day.
We did not have air conditioning, so any time the furnace was not needed for heat pretty much all the screened windows in the house would remain open all day and night. I shared a bedroom and one of two twin beds with my younger brother with mine on the side of the room adjacent to an east-facing window.
One of my fondest memories of living in that house was the smell of the sweet, country air that would drift silently through those open windows in the wee hours of a summer night. There was no car noise, or unnatural sounds of any kind out there. Just crickets and cicadas. A barking dog in the distance somewhere. And I recall sometimes lying at the foot of my bed with my hands and chin resting on the windowsill watching as the moon began to rise into the dark and star-studded sky. As it lifted fully above the tree line on the far side of the cornfield the lone tree that stood in that field would begin to throw a moon shadow across the waist-high corn stalks. And, if it was a full moon, it would be “…as bright as a readin’ light,” to borrow a line from songwriter, Mike Burton, casting a soft, gray aura across an utterly peaceful and tranquil countryside. Sometimes I would fall asleep there.
You have probably heard the following story, or some variation of it, in a book or movie. For some reason, I remember it being in the context of an American Indian back in the days when the west was still being settled. In this version, an Indian brave was about to leave his family for points unknown for what was expected to be an extended period of time. His young son was deeply disturbed by this news and didn’t want his father to leave. So, the brave took the boy on his knee and told him that on the eve of every full moon to watch as it first rises in the east and he would do the same, no matter where he was. In that way, the two of them would be connected until his return.
It was a long time ago I heard that story and to this day this day I cannot cast my eyes on a full moon without thinking about it—wondering who all may be watching it along with me.