I hope that most visitors to my blog are interested in the big adventures I write about. But I receive so many emails from people who yearn for adventure but do not have the time or freedom to go and walk across a desert.
That’s where microadventures come in. This one is tiny, even by the standard of microadventures.
Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking that I planned to do nothing more than go for an evening stroll. And you’d be right – this post is about nothing more than that. Except for this point: that I actually went and did it.
There is no point in lamenting a lack of time for big adventures if you don’t even make time for heading out one evening and exploring close to home by the light of the full moon…
If you want to start incorporating microdventures into your life you need to change your perspective. You need to begin seeking out wildness and adventure close to home, even in seemingly familiar and humdrum places.
A great way to help this mind shift is by returning to somewhere you know very well, but this time at night. A full moon casts enough light to walk by and is a beautiful time to explore. The best moon of all is the harvest moon, the full moon closest to the autumn equinox in September. I find it sad how out-of-touch we can get with the natural world, particularly for those of us who live in towns and cities. Dates like the solstices and the equinoxes, as well as the monthly full moon, help prod me to pay more attention to the ebb and flow of the seasons.
The harvest moon is my second favourite kind of full moon. Yes, I really did just write that sentence. My favourite is the super moon. My second favourite is the harvest moon. This is because, for reasons requiring too much intellect for this website to explain, the harvest full moon always rises shortly after sunset. And it rises shortly after sunset every day for a few days afterwards. This means that if you set out on an early evening walk or cycle you can enjoy watching the moon rise. It is much more eye-catching when it is close to the horizon.
You don’t need to begin ambitiously when heading out after dark. In fact, the simpler you keep it, the more likely you are to actually do it. I decided to try something extremely simple for this little microadventure.
I would follow a railway line out of town. I’d use the railway line to guide me as I weaved my way across the countryside. I’d catch the last train home from a village station sometime around midnight.
I wanted to begin in a town in order to show myself just how different the open countryside feels at night compared to a town. Streetlights really suck the natural world from towns.
But even in the town, I still felt myself paying more attention to things than I would during daylight. Other senses come to the fore. I felt the warmth radiating from the engine of a recently parked car. A man passed, walking a dog, and I noticed the smell of his shampoo. Across the road I saw the glow of a cigarette and a mobile phone. I heard a toilet flushing and the distant low hum of the motorway. I smelled someone cooking dinner and then a train rushed past along the track I was trying to follow. I listened to its sound receding and then followed along in its wake.
I was taking photographs along the way. Taking photos at night takes a long time as you have to use a tripod and a long exposure. But I enjoyed how much this slowed my progress. Whenever I decided to take a picture I had to frame it then stand around for 30 seconds waiting for the exposure to finish. A woman watched me from outside a pub. I didn’t notice her until she called out “Happy photography!” She had left her friends inside, stepped out for a cigarette, was enjoying the moon. I smiled back, “Happy smoking!”
The edge of town was particularly distinct in the darkness. The houses and the street lights ended. And in front of me was the blackness of an empty field. Clouds zipped quickly across the fat round moon which was by now about two hands’ breadths above the horizon.
I stepped into the dark field, crossing the boundary. I didn’t have a torch. The point of this walk was to embrace the night and enjoy the moonlight. I didn’t want an artificial torch. It took me a few moments to adjust to the darkness and the stillness. But as I walked along the margins of the ploughed field my eyes adjusted. Planes circled in the sky, sweeping slowly across the constellations.
The sky was much lighter than the land, and the trees at the edge of my field jutted, silhouetted, up into the orangey suburban sky. If I stood and stared at the moon for long enough I could actually see it moving, creeping up higher in the sky. I heard insects chirping in the verges. And I caught a glimpse of a rabbit sprinting by. What really surprised me though, was that I could hear the rabbit’s rapid footsteps. I have never noticed that before.
Field after field I enjoyed the stillness more and more. I pledged to repeat this experience more often. It was a perfect antidote to my desk-bound day, blowing fresh air through my mind and flushing it all clean and fresh once more. It was a warm, breezy evening and I relished striding through the fields, crossing occasional roads and walking, unseen, past homes and farms.
I had ear-marked a station about 20 miles away from where I intended to catch the train home again. But I realised that I had been moving so slowly that I would never get that far. Taking photographs, and just standing and staring had taken up so much time.
Deliberate ambling is very unfamiliar to me but I was really enjoying it. At the next station I decided to call it a night and go home. I was amazed at how quick the return train journey was. I had walked such a miniscule distance! But it had been a really relaxing, enlightening way of getting a new perspective on a landscape whose over-familiarity often bores me. I strongly recommend you try it.
The dates of the next full moons are:
- 19th October
- 17th November
- 17th December
Put a note in your calendar today…