Tonight, after enjoying a late dinner at Lauren’s, I meandered solo through Boonville by the light of the full moon. No pulling, wagging, sniffing, weaving dogs. No tall, pensive boyfriend. No other accompaniment but my own rusty thoughts. The former were at home, guarding the flock so to speak. The latter had made his way to San Francisco for the evening, for a baseball game, skipping town with a friend, and to briefly escape increasingly tiresome obligations. I can see the moon smiling in the sky, warm and glowing, but as far away as nobody’s friend.
The Farmer’s Almanac listed tonight’s as the Sturgeon Moon. Maybe Sturgeon breed under this one, or are ripe for the plucking and the roasting. I don’t know much about Sturgeon, I’m not even sure they populate Mendocino’s waters, and I’m not much aware of their preferred locale. And I’m only vaguely familiar with the Pink, Harvest, and Wolf Moons, as full moons go. I never really make it a point to remember which is when, only having the idea that one is at some point during the spring, one is in autumn, and one is in winter, but I savor their names no less, as if they speak of a time and a world that is not quite lost, but hiding just beyond the mountain’s shadow. I keep telling myself I’ll make it a point to learn all of the names of the various full moons, or at least find out the significance of the less obvious ones. I never seem to get around to it. I suppose I like the idea of it, more than I do that of memorizing something just right of esoteric, and for the sake of what? One day when I am on Jeopardy? Maybe to pull out by the camp fire or just because it’s interesting and comforting to know a little something about how the world once was, when time was measured differently, and when the pace of days was not counted digitally with measured hours but only by the lengthening of shadows and the movements of astral figures across the sky.
As is usual after 9 o’clock, especially midweek, and even at the height of tourist season, town was quietly peaceful, low on any sign of outdoor happenings involving townsfolk, despite the breezy reward offered by a cool evening following a day that crept up just shy of 100. I could see into a few of the houses that sit just back from the road by the post office. Doors were flung open to let in the cool air, and living rooms looked inviting and homey. The observer (or voyeur. Take your pick) in me is always delighted to peep into others’ houses at night. I think partly because I enjoy the doll house view of their lives, as if it all were so simple and neat. Of course it is when you do not know the people or the story. But even the shabbiest of houses can look truly lovely and decidedly cozy in the pinkish-orange glow of a lamp, shining through to the outsider. There is a simple beautifying effect certain light has on humbler places, like an easy, instant face lift that seems to level the playing field, if just momentarily.
Through the door of the house to the north side of 128, I could see a cow’s skull with both horns in tact, set against an adobe colored wall. In the south side house, a buck’s head adorned by an impressive rack hung in front of a grayish blue wallpaper. Both struck me as equally beautiful, strange, and repulsive all at once. The skull in particular seemed almost totemic, a found object that is both horrifying and starkly gorgeous, preserved in its stymied state of decay.
Heading west through town, a handful of cars passed me by, intermittently rumbling on through the sighing night, winding away from the stoic redwoods and glistening grape vines, slowly untangling the roads back to the city; at least, back to more populous places presumably, or maybe just beyond my sight and hearing to a different unpaved lane, to some cabin or mansion, tucked beyond the recesses of a pile of hills.
The closed shops were gently illuminated by string lights and the few street lamps dotting the main strip of 128. The letters O-P-E-N ascended into visibility in front of The Buckhorn, and caught the corner of my eye as I passed. Even something so small and inconsequential as a neon sign can seem like a major upgrade for such a tiny town. “You are here! You have arrived!” the signs seem to shout to the passing cars.
By the ice cream shop, I could make out the shadowy figure of a tiny cat, silently, cautiously watching me from the shadows, as still as a little statue; black as pitch and motionless, I had to squint to make sure I wasn’t imagining its familiar shape. Its head turned. I approached it, slowly calling out to the little one, hoping to have encountered an unexpected friend, but it fled and disappeared under the fence as I moved forward. I shrugged and walked on, glancing upward to see a shooting star, my first sighting of the Leonids. It seemed fitting, since today is my father’s 66th birthday. Two teenage girls wandered past me, murmuring to each other in Spanish. The Art Deco inspired sign above the Saloon blinked at me as I wandered on, turning the engine of my car and driving on to wind my way back up into the hills above town.