September’s harvest moon had the boldness to creep into our bedroom in the early morning hours, dodging soon-to-be-bare branches of cottonwood trees lining the yard. Beaming across the hand-stitched quilt at 4 a.m. through the large patio door that faces nearly west, the cool blue light summons me from sleep to wakefulness. It was that bright. We were mere days from the autumnal equinox; the only time of the year when the moon and large door leading to our small deck align like the stars in Orion’s belt.
This beautiful Harvest Moon was the fourth full moon of the summer season reaching its peak just three days before the autumnal equinox that occurred on September 22. The moon rises just a wee bit earlier every September evening providing additional light for harvest – an antiquated idea in light of the modern harvesting equipment moving in calculated alignment through expansive plantings of small grains, corn and soybeans blanketing nearly all of the state. Cabs, GPS, computers and remote controls make the Harvest Moon insignificant except for its incredible beauty.
Northern Plain’s farmers were perhaps fortunate in homesteading days that the Harvest Moon effect amplifies the further north you farm. Shorted on nice weather, there are things about North Dakota that make up for wild winters, like a wonderful lifestyle. We are fortunate for many reasons. And we will always exist this far north.
It’s not uncommon during harvest to pass a tractor, spray coupe, horse trailer, cattle truck or a swaggering load of bales on the Interstate that cuts a fairly straight path across the middle of the state. It connects North Dakota’s major cities lined up like obelisks exactly 100 miles apart. The Interstate has remained the same; the tractors, however, have grown larger and much reduced in numbers, over the past 30 years.
Harvest arrives at the end of an annual cycle. The end of a season means the beginning of a new one, completing a circle of life that, in my experience, rural families understand better than most folks. Perhaps it is because they pay attention to life cycles as critical components of their jobs. Or maybe it’s simply farmers have the opportunity to spend more time outdoors observing the moon wax and wane; as well as witnessing crops along side roads and highways go from seed to food annually. Generations of families, like crops, too replace generations as people move from birth to winter years of life. The cycle continues unending and as unfailing as our own eminent end.
I think often of my grandparents and how hard they had to work at feeding their families and making a living in this far-north land. I respect them, for without them – I would not be here today enjoying the sunrise.