Back in February, on the day I knew the full moon would be rising, I sat down outside facing east, a few minutes before sunset, to watch the show. Here in southwestern New Mexico, the afternoon had been sunny and dry with a high in the low 70s, so the temperature, though cooling down, was still very pleasant.
I was in a shallow valley, and though the sun set on me when it dipped below the low ridge to my west, it was still in the sky for the most of the landscape in my view. As I watched, the shadow of the ridge behind me moved out across the irrigated pastures and crept up to the bottom of the hills around the rim of the valley. As it climbed the slopes, the colors of the peaks deepened to amber and then rose. Their rounded tops stood out in the last light like islands before slowly being swallowed up.
I sat staring, spellbound by the beauty. Just at the moment when I guessed that the sun was fully set behind the western horizon, a bright light stabbed out in the crook between two of the peaks. My first impression was of sunlight reflecting off a rooftop but I’ve gazed upon those peaks innumerable times and I knew there were no structures up there, in the national forest.
But the emanation grew brighter, and I caught my breath as I realized with a start that I was watching was the moon rising. Within a moment, what had been a point showed the curve of a disk, and within another moment, it was clearly round. The sky and the hills, which had been steadily darkening with the sinking of the sun, seemed in this moment to grow brighter. I don’t remember that affect from before, but that doesn’t mean I’d never seen it—just that I hadn’t noticed it.