One evening, late in September, when the moon was full, I went out at three in the morning and was overwhelmed by the light all around me.
I decided at that moment to record the sensual feeling of the island's landscape at night.
This is work in progress. I expect it will take forever to finish.
It soaks up
But I feel
what it sees…
Night photography draws my attention to the moon. I find myself looking for it during the day so I can predict where it might be at sunset.
I become aware of time in a different way. I think of the planet voyaging around the sun and the moon circling with it in a gigantic cycle that has encompassed the lives of my forbears and will likely do so for my grandchildren.
Dawn - East Chop lighthouse
"It was a night such as one sees perhaps half a dozen times a winter. The sky was less a sky of earth, than interstellar space itself, revealed in its pure and overarching height, an abyss timeless and remote and sown with an immense glittering of stars in their luminous rivers and pale mists, in their solitary and unneighbored splendors, in their ordered figures, and dark, half-empty fields. It was the middle of the evening, and in the north over a lonely farm a great darkness of the forest, and one distant light, the dipper, stood on its handle, each star radiant in the blue and empty space about the pole." Henry Beston - Northern Farm:
East Chop Lighthouse
The bell buoy clanged offshore
That was all.
Orion was there - where he had always been.
The moon drifts back
with each day
fading into black
Seaview Avenue - Oak Bluffs
During the day
The fog lay offshore
During the night
It walked the streets
The town was silent.
in that turret room
Oak Bluffs Town Beach
The dune grass seemed to be waiting...
but for what?
The Moon shimmered
A car passed
Only one car
In all that time
Jetties at First Bridge - about midnight
“Our fantastic civilization has fallen out of touch with many aspects of nature, and with none more completely than with night.”
...Are modern folk, perhaps, afraid of night? Do they fear that vast serenity, the mystery of infinite space, the austerity of stars? Be the answer what it will, today's civilization is full of people who have not the slightest notion of the character or the poetry of night, who have never even seen night.”
“Learn to reverence night and to put away the vulgar fear of it, for, with the banishment of night from the experience of man, there vanishes as well a religious emotion, a poetic mood, which gives depth to the adventure of humanity.” Henry Beston - Outermost House
Moonlight finds beauty in the mundane. On one night excursion, I am summoned by rippling patterns in corrugated steel at the Shipyard.
Day is near. The sky is deep vermilion. Geometries are stark – almost cubist.
Band stand - Oak Bluffs
Watch Tower - Bendintheroad
Island Home - dawn arrival
The jeep's headlights illuminate the rutted road. The moon does the rest, bathing the dunes all around in a soft nostalgic glow. Time seems to move forward and backward in the headlights' loom. This is part of the romance of moon light, I think. Is this here and now or perhaps there and then?
We proceed on with stunted cedar trees encroaching on either side and taller ones out in the moonglow. Grass bends in a wind which has journeyed over the Adirondack Mountains , the Atlantic Ocean , Edgartown and Cape Pogue Pond. By the time it reaches us it is gentle – and warm. A big cold front is moving down from the west which has hastened this photographic trip to Cape Pogue 's lighthouse. In the next few days, the sky will cloud and the wind will shake the camera making long nighttime exposures impossible.
I am fascinated by night photography because the light is so revealing of things lost in the glare of daylight – subtle shadows and colors, for example. When the moon is up, as it is now, it paints the clouds and they shimmer. If the moon is too bright you lose the stars so you choose an evening when it's one quarter full – as it is on this night.
I find myself looking for the moon during the day so I can predict where it will be at sunset. I think of the planet voyaging around the sun with the moon circling in a gigantic cycle that has encompassed the lives of my parents and will likely do so for my grandchildren.
We arrive at the light house with daylight fading and the sky rugged with cloud. I take a few photographs of the dusk scene, but I'm really just passing time, waiting for the moon to assert itself and the stars to come out.
With nightfall, the clouds disperse leaving wisps hovering around the rising moon. The western sky is clear. The stars arrive. The lighthouse pulses, once every six seconds. It is visible nine miles to sea.
I busy myself now with flashlight, camera and tripod, looking for the perfect composition. I'm collecting photographs as one might butterflies. They are flitting gossamer things. I won't know if they're good until tomorrow, when, back at the computer, I pick and choose among them – coffee in hand. But, for the moment, I'm engrossed in the present as the planet spins toward daylight in its constant cycle from there and then to here and now.
In December, the night curls round the house where I am enfolded in warmth