I missed this month’s arrival of the Super Moon, the astronomical event in which the moon, passing particularly close to Earth, hung like a mammoth medallion in the night sky.
On the Sunday of the Super Moon, I was finishing up dinner dishes, paying bills, gathering what we’d need for my son’s first day back at school. It didn’t occur to me, while deeply immersed in the minor world beneath my roof, to crane my head out the window, like a periscope angling for light, and get a look at the big moon brushing the treetops of the neighborhood.
I read about the Super Moon in the papers the next day. The press covered the event diligently, but left the impression that the moon is worth watching only when it puffs its chest.
Even an ordinary full moon can be a brilliant thing, as I was reminded last month when darkness fell while I was in the middle of yard work. To beat the summer heat, I’d been cutting grass at dusk. The light was fading quickly, and I doubted I’d have enough light to finish.
But a round moon rose to replace the sun, dappling the grass with little squares of white, like steppingstones scattered across a black sea. The pattern made by moonlight shimmering through tree limbs seemed vivid enough for me to navigate. I finished mowing by moonlight, the most pleasant yard chore I’ve tackled this season.
Moonlight mowing probably isn’t the safest thing one can do, which is why I don’t plan to make a habit of cutting grass under the stars.
What I crave the most when I cut the grass, I suppose, is variety. The boredom of the job sometimes tempts me to doodle. Instead of mowing in long, straight lines, like a farmer behind a plow, I occasionally cut in concentric circles. Viewed at just the right slant of light, the impression made by the mower looks like the folds of a jelly roll.
Maybe writer Mary Oliver is onto something in a new poem, “On Not Mowing the Lawn.”
“Let the grass spring up tall, let its roots sing / and the seeds begin their scattering,” Oliver suggests. “Let the weeds rejoin and be prolific throughout. / Let the noise of the mower be banished, hurrah!”
Letting the grass grow tall is a nice idea for a poet, but I’m not sure my neighbors would approve.
So I’ve mowed through another summer of my life, each freshly clipped lawn like a notch on the calendar that marks the year’s glacial progress toward fall.
August is the hotbed of coals we’d like to run across to enter autumn, but it’s a month for marathoners, not sprinters. There’s pleasure in arriving at the doorstep of September, seeing within grasp the time of dormant grass, leaves piled deep, and evenings that lure us outdoors. Another Super Moon is coming on Sept. 9, and I don’t want to miss this one.
Danny Heitman is on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.