I doubt any of us can recall our initial sighting of the moon but I can remember when it took on a greater significance for me as something other than a shining orb hanging in the night sky I attempted to reach out and touch on more than one occasion.
It was a moonlit night in late fall, a time when your breath would begin to create a vapor and there was a notable crispness in the air.
I was sitting on the porch with grandmother who had wrapped a blanket around my shoulders, no real conversation taking place just a quiet comfort as we listened to the night sounds and gazed at a low hanging moon that seemed closer than ever I had already attempted to touch.
A little distance away a fox had began yipping and went on for some time – I asked grandmother why the fox was talking so much and she replied because he’s happy that grandmother is providing light and smiling at him.
Then she gestured to the moon and said it was the foxes grandmother much the same as it was ours – a simple statement that changed my thinking and led me to understand that foxes and people are kindred spirits from different nations but nations none the less.
The hounds having heard the fox had risen to their feet casting about for a scent, satisfied nothing was amiss and there was no threat they turned a circle or two and laid back down ruminating about the things that dogs do and no doubt congratulating themselves on their readiness and what they would have done had an actual threat emerged – a pat on the head, a thump of the tail and all’s well.
I feel asleep on that porch as only a five year old born with a natural affinity for the outdoors can do, to sleep unencumbered by the restraints of walls, doors, and a breeze filtered only by grass, leaves and pine needles as a companion.
Grandmother having an appreciation and understanding of such things as related to feral children got a blanket of her own and slept beside me.
In the morning awakened by wet tongues licking my face and eager eyes accompanied by wagging tails that said suns up time to play or wander in the woods my mother appeared with coffee, cornbread and biscuits for all – good naturedly fussing a little as she attempted to comb my hair with her fingers and asked if a porch that creaked and groaned as it longed for bygone days when sturdier made for a good nights rest and what were my plans for the day?
Not satisfied with the way my mother had attempted to create some semblance of order with my hair grandmother made a pass or two, realized the futility lacking a comb and then said she was of the opinion I would probably like to see where the fox had been and what he was up to.
Sounded good to me so off went – less than a half mile away we came into something of an open area in the woods that would have provided an unobstructed view of the previous nights moon.
As a unit we cast about looking for sign, the hounds sniffing and wuffing crossing back and forth – at the time I thought I was the first to discover a track, but that was grandmother’s way, she wanted me to make the initial discovery and would make a pretense of looking around until I did.
We found where the fox had sat for a time and a log he lain under having since departed in pursuit of breakfast and a drink of water.
Having satisfied themselves there wasn’t much going on the hounds feeling obliged to do so scent marked what they considered to be their territory and turned their attention to finding something, anything, to chase – which turned out to me as we alternated between being chaser and chasee.
One of the benefits of my childhood were the real time illustrations that accompanied a lesson, I wasn’t just told something but shown as well – the emphasis not being on books but the more tangibles like look, this is where the fox sat and by sitting in this place and looking in that direction he could clearly see grandmother.
Then as he became sleepy he chose this spot under this log, why do you think he did so?
Because it was snug, offered security, and no one could sneak up on him.
Grandmother still provides open air lessons accompanied by different though not as feral children and different dogs who like their predecessors feel the same obligation to scent mark territory and look for something to chase – there’s a comfort in such continuity, a sense of well being.
To this day when out at I night I continue to look at the moon hoping to hear a fox in the distance, smile and say nae’ese ke’eehe……..thank you grandmother.