Tuesday, February 26, 2013

24 Hours in a Day

Mention the word nature and people automatically think about carpets of flowers, towering trees, blue skies overhead, a gentle breeze.  This instinctive mental picture is of course of nature in the day time.  We play outside from sunrise to sundown, and thereafter head indoors to read, eat, drink, watch TV, etc, shrinking out world to what is artificially lighted.  Even campers hunker down around the campfire at night, venturing outside the circle of warmth and comforting light only to relieve themselves.  The woods are closed.

There are, however, 24 hours in a day, and nature is always open.  While spending time out West I slowly came to realize just how magical the nighttime is.  It began with the occasional night driving home from town or the saloon in Montana when the moon or lack there of would catch my eye: a full moon revealing Paradise Valley in a completely new light while its absence mean an incredible blanket of stars overhead.  In Moab this past fall the moon was full and I could not help but sit out and watch it light up the canyons and explore a little as well.

Even my camera, a device dependent on light, can be adapted to the nighttime.  A long exposure and a little computer enhancement make night photos a lot of fun, although getting a clear picture of the moon itself remains elusive.

Skiing to and from work this winter has made me more comfortable with the darkness and has helped me appreciate and be aware of the lunar calendar.  Skiing under a new moon is a little trickier than a full one.  Last night I could have read a book outside, while two weeks from now the world will look two dimensional under the new moon, dark trees against a white background.  Sometimes staying on the trail is more of a feel than sight thing, especially if new snow has erased any visual signs of its existence.

Do I use a headlamp to light the way?  No.  Never have and never will.  Like so many other human inventions, it cuts you off from the outside world.  Sure, it illuminates the trail directly in front of you, but it also blinds you to everything outside that narrow line of sight.  A moose could be standing two feet off the trail and I would never know.  Until he decided to stomp me into oblivion that is.

So last night I decided to take advantage of the full moon and made a midnight excursion over hill and dale and through the enchanted forest to my favorite aspen groves, their creamy trunks stretching skyward, branches spreading out to create a see-through canopy.  

I did not take any pictures, but the night before I snapped a few photos on my way home from work.  The first photo is un-enhanced, while the second is what a little tweaking can do.

Alright, well time to get out there and enjoy the fresh snow that is currently falling, reducing our world to the trees immediately beyond the deck.  A snow globe existence if you will.  Let it snow and I will just pretend the hubbub of the outside world does not exist.

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