Moon Chasing

Time to Wonder - What If?

Sometimes waiting for a good thing can allow a person time to think. To savor life’s under-appreciated magnificence. Reflect on the good stuff. As the Delta breeze causes me to pull my hat on a little more snugly while waiting for the full moon, I have time to wonder.  What if?

Moonrise, Owl Harbor.

The moon belongs to everyone; the best things in life are free  -– Lew Brown and Buddy De Silva

The full moon rising is a phenomenon that never tires me. 

Stepping outside in the newness of the day to retrieve the morning paper is another of life’s little pleasures, often beautifully interrupted by a chorus of honking Canada geese flying over in formation so low I can hear the rush of air over their wings. Joanna likes to share the weather forecast with me and tell me the temperatures of places we have been together. Also on that page can be found all kinds of almanac information, the most useful of which I find are times of sunset, sunrise, moonrise and moonset. As the next full moon approaches, Joanna includes that information as well and, if the weather conditions look favorable, we start thinking about where to go to chase it. Occasionally we opt for the nearby foothills but we almost always head out to the Delta for its wide unobstructed sky. 

Hyacinth-choked Stockton Deepwater Channel.

Eclipses, meteor showers and comets don’t come around very often and when they do it is cause to consider the miracle of it all. But a full moonrise happens on average every 29.53 days. Really, I looked it up. Because it’s so well regulated and occurs often enough, it often goes without notice. Taken for granted perhaps. So, if our schedules and the weather work in our favor, we’re heading out because a moonrise is an under-appreciated miracle I don’t want to miss if I can help it. 

The moos is clearing the crest of the foothills east of Valley Springs.

Sometimes we go early enough for Joanna to do a plein air painting before dark. Occasionally I’ve thought the conditions would be too hazy for a good photograph so I don’t prepare. I just sit and enjoy a good book, a beverage and the surroundings while she paints. Then, surprisingly, the moon starts clearing the horizon and it’s better than I had imagined it might be. The mad scramble ensues to quickly unbag the camera, get it on the tripod and pointed in the right direction with the right lens.

West of Korth’s Pirate’s Lair Marina at the confluence of the Mokelumne and San Joaquin rivers.

On a recent moon chase the skies were clear and I was hoping for the best. I prepared early and perched on the narrow platform of an irrigation pump in the San Joaquin River west of Korth’s Pirate’s Lair Marina. While waiting, I have time to think. The camera is tripod-mounted and pointed east where my educated guess tells me the moon will show itself. Time marches at its own regulated pace, not to be rushed; the moonrise will happen on its own schedule. Waiting, having this time, is a good thing. The platform has a slight rhythmic sway to it, timed to the river’s breeze-induced waves. I think first about the technical challenges of getting a decent picture. Will my platform’s slight movement blur the image? Am I guessing correctly as to where the moon will appear? Is the sky clear enough? Is my composition going to work? Do I have my exposure set correctly? Have I selected the right lens? Those issues are part of the fun of making a good picture. It’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together except that there are no pre-cut pieces with a picture on the box. The greater joy here is having time to just be. In the moment. Enjoying the miracle of the impending celestial event about to happen while I’m enjoying my surroundings, with or without a moon on the way. 

Delta dinner for two while awaiting the moonrise.

On another outing serendipity happened while waiting for the moon to rise over Empire Tract. With the camera in position on the tripod bracing against a stiff Delta breeze and Potato Slough behind me, I wait. It was a time of heavier-than-usual water hyacinth invasion and with the moon due to appear very soon a beautiful pair of swans drifted within range, seemingly oblivious to our presence. On the menu for this Delta Dinner for Two was the hyacinth.

On another moon-chasing excursion all I had to do was simply turn around for a completely different mood. As the moon was beginning its ascent above the Stockton Deep Water Channel, the sun was slowly sinking over the shoulder of Mt. Diablo. I can’t make this stuff up, I’m was just happy to be there, watch and enjoy.

While the moon is rising in the east, the sun sets over the shoulder of Mt. Diablo.

Having time to simply wait, I find myself wondering what would happen if much of the Delta’s fresh water got tunneled elsewhere and more salt water crept further inland. Wondering if generations to come will be able to enjoy the character and uniqueness of the Delta as much as I do. Here, I have time to just be in the moment, to enjoy the surroundings while the cool Delta breeze tries to toss my hat into the river. I’m fortunate that I have been able to enjoy this special place for decades. 

East of Stockton near Milton.
Woodbridge Road Near Hog Slough.

I hope we don’t mismanage the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta into oblivion solely for the sake of big money interests far away.  

Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars.   ― J.R.R. Tolkien


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