Any of you who saw me read from Get Your Pitchfork On at a bookstore or library may recall that I ended each presentation with the introduction to the Land Section. It’s a kind of a love-letter to the land, which is my main motivation for country living. In it, I talk about the brilliance of a full moon and the devastating beauty of a starlit, moonless night. Well, as beautiful as it was in the Gorge, in Wallowa County there is exponentially more drama.
Part of the difference is that I am forced, by way of needing to let the puppies out to pee, to be up at 4-or-so every morning. I love sleep too much to say I’m happy about this, but I will go so far as to admit that I’m grateful for the opportunity to hear Great Horned owls talking from tree to tree around our yard; see elk crunch across the area just outside the fence; hear coyotes working themselves into a shrill frenzy out past the barn.
Part of it is our remarkable location. From our house, west of and about a hundred feet higher than the towns of Enterprise and Joseph, we see pretty much the entire northern half of the Wallowa Valley, foothills trailing off behind the East Moraine of Wallowa Lake, layer after layer, with the horizon being drawn by the Seven Devils of Idaho. Idaho! Some 40 miles away. Behind us looms Ruby Peak and the rest of the Wallowa Mountains wrapping around us toward the north.
As I was writing this post, the sun dipped behind the mountains behind me. Blue shadows dropped down the slope, engulfed Enterprise and Joseph, and then the far ridge. But the Devils were still lit by the sun. In fact, they reflected the sunset, bright orange-pink—a dazzlingly bright, mountainous median surrounded by dim winterscape.
And the moon. I’ve seen some good moons in my day. But somehow the moon is more show-off-y out here. I’ve seen the Harvest and Hunter’s moons rise above the sparse lights of Enterprise like the Great Pumpkin. I even saw it set, early one morning, behind my neighbor’s house. A couple times a small, white moon has risen above the Devils while they were lit up with sunset.
And, since this post is about the night sky, I haven’t even mentioned the sunrises! Lighting up the hills; calling us to the day. Last week we had freezing fog for two days, and Mike was able to watch the entire sunrise because it was obscured enough to not threaten his retinas. It was an orange orb, rising like—the moon.