An Abundance of Moonlight

*Photo taken at Sprague’s Maple Farm in Portville, NY. I know, it isn’t a picture of a moon–my camera takes lousy photos of the moon, so this is the best I’ve got. :/ At least the photo is festive, right?

After a long day at the school on Tuesday, I had to go shopping and get gas, which meant that by the time I got home it was dark. Typically I walk my dogs almost as soon as I get home from work because I prefer walking them during the day. Our road isn’t lit at night, and some parts of the road are narrow and difficult to find a safe place to stand when cars need to pass. It makes for treacherous walking at night, though most people who drive the dirt roads here seem to be watchful of their neighbors. A lot of people have dogs to walk here. In any case, I pulled onto the road which takes me up the hill to our rental home in the woods, and just as I turned around the first big bend, the moonlight blasted me in the eyes. My face lit up like a Christmas tree, because the clear sky, the snow, and the moon waxing toward a three-quarter fullness all meant I could walk the dogs without a flashlight. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I love walking by moonlight. It’s not a thing you have to worry about if you live in a town or city, but when you live in the woods, walking by moonlight is enchanting.

When I got the groceries unloaded, I immediately encouraged the dogs out with me (though it didn’t take much more than me saying the word “walk”). Off we went up the hill, the tough slog up a couple of inclines and little valleys that bring out the burn in your legs. Mostly, I chose that direction because the moonlight shone so brightly on that part of the road. I was simply drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Wind blew in the trees, still dragging in the cold Arctic air which kept us inside at school instead of going out to the playground. A constant whooshing of the wind combined with trees groaning in the cold, but the light was about as bright as a distant floodlight shining into a yard, except it was the moon shining across the whole woods. All the snow lit up silvery-blue, and as we walked up the hill, golden lights from houses tucked deep into the woods peeked out from between the bare trees. Despite the moon being so bright, a few stars still managed to compete for their place in the night sky. I happily spotted Mars, still such a bright orange orb it almost looked like it wasn’t real. Usually I can spot Orion this time of year, but he either hadn’t risen yet, or the moon blotted out the recognizable stars. I’m not enough of a sky observer to know; I just like looking up and enjoying the view.

We must have walked between twenty and thirty minutes in the brisk night without a flashlight. Perhaps there are people who think this is crazy, that it’s dangerous because I might run into animals or get hit by a car. I had a flashlight to turn on in case a car came, and I had my two dogs with me in case of animals. Even a bear would probably hesitate to bother me with my two dogs by my side. I can imagine why some people might be afraid to walk in the woods at night, because I think about diving deep into the ocean with nothing but a wet suit and a tank of air and my belly gets squishy with fear. The ocean is not my bag, but get me out in the woods and I feel alive. Some people live for the ocean. Maybe some of those people imagine going into the woods at night and their bellies get squishy. We all have things we love, and fear is part of life. If it really matters to me, maybe one day I’ll challenge myself to go snorkeling or take a trip across the ocean. Or maybe not. If I find a good enough reason, I’ll try almost anything at least once.

By the time I neared the house to get inside to cook dinner, a smile had plastered itself to my face. I felt so refreshed by the magic of my walk in the woods under the stars, I can’t imagine anything that could have made me happier. On Monday, I went to meditation and our Sanga leader shared with us a lovely idea about shifting the way we think about new year’s resolutions. Instead of making a resolution, he suggested we consider making an intention. With intentions, we don’t feel quite the same pressure to uphold a promise, and the mind recognizes it as a more relaxed kind of state. We might be more likely to keep up with an intention, he said, so as I sat and listened to his ideas about intentions, I realized a perfect intention for me was to notice abundance. I have a nasty tendency to notice scarcity, as so many of us tend to do when we take things for granted, and I felt immediately the shift in my own mind when I imagined how beneficial such an intention could be for me. Since then, I have had moments where I swim up from my unconsciously busy thoughts and realize I have a chance to notice abundance. Yesterday as I drove my car up the highway, I realized what an abundance of freedom I have with my car, and to even have a car was a load of abundance. As I cooked my dinner today, I realized what abundance it was to be able to eat such wonderful, healthy food, and that I didn’t need to check my bank account before I went to the store to buy it—I just went and paid for it. Once upon a time, not in the too-distant past, I would have had to count my pennies to scrounge for a meal like the one I ate for dinner.

Noticing abundance will hopefully open my eyes to all the good things in my life, and to be grateful for them. I could just try to practice gratitude, but I’ve tried making lists and didn’t stick to it. I think instead I needed to find something a little deeper and more true to what I need to balance in my own life. After enough experiences with scarcity, it can be scary to let go of the feeling that at any time scarcity could return. But I don’t live in scarcity right now, even if I may have to do it one day again. I’ve survived some fairly rough times. I think it’s okay to let go of the survival mindset for now; those skills are still there if I ever need them again. Either way, even in times of scarcity we can find abundance, and I’m glad for the idea to try a new year’s intention. And why bother waiting? I decided to start as soon as I left meditation.