…on a starlit desert night
glittering stars hang in the night sky
ablaze is the golden moon
reach up and grab it
use it to light and
gaze upon your lover’s face
on a crisp, cool night
you feel you could fly
on a sweet, desert night…
The Desert we love.
The above excerpt is taken from my favorite poem about the moon, Desert Night. Not many things in the natural world stir emotion and passion like the moon. It’s long been proclaimed in song, depicted in stories and myths, and romanticized in poetry. Calendars follow its cycles, farmers bring in their crops to it, and spells are cast under it. I love the moon. I’ve gazed at it from a beach in Samoa, atop a trestle bridge over the Mississippi, and from a sailboat on a mountain lake, but my favorite place to view the moon is always from the Mojave.
The first time I really took notice of the desert was under a full moon, and the magic took hold and has never let go. I was traveling in a sleeping car on the Southwest Chief from L.A. to Chicago, my first night ever on a train. Somewhere between Needles and Kingman I pulled back the curtain, too excited to sleep, and the open desert had been transformed – it looked as if it had been covered in a blanket of snow. The moonlight illumined the sand to almost white, stars twinkled in an inky blue sky, and dark shadows made intricate shapes on the passing landscape. I’d never seen anything so beautiful and tranquil, and at the same time, intense. I had a similar reaction the first time I saw van Gogh’s Starry Night. I’m not a religious person, but this was spiritual. I stayed at that window till the sun came up.
I’ve since moved to the Mojave, and every full moon, just after sundown, you’ll find me sitting on a boulder with a cup of coffee, the rising moon making a perfect nightlight. The wind is usually brisk and cool as the night sky presents itself, one star at a time. Occasionally, a satellite glides past or a meteor races across the sky. Planes fly high above, and I like to think about who’s up there, what it’s like on Mars and Venus, and what’s on the dark side of the moon. And then I look far across the valley to the east to Joshua Tree and 29 Palms, and I’m always struck by the vastness and greatness of the desert. There’s a force that’s undeniable out here, and a feeling that we’re all part of a huge, raucous universe, and the energy from everything and everyone in it is passing through us, carried on the wind.
Each month’s full moon is known by at least one name. Some Indians call the August moon the Red Full Moon because of the hue it takes on a muggy, summer night. This Friday’s full moon is also known as a Blue Moon, and as you know, it’s not really blue… unless you happen to be looking through a smoky haze. We won’t see another two-moon month again till 2015, so you might as well step outside and take a look. And who knows? You just might be tempted to gaze upon your lover’s face… or feel you can fly!