Sam Cook column: Waiting for a winter moon
We were keeping an appointment with the sky.
The sun was riding low in the west, a tangerine glow through the tops of the bare aspen. Phyllis and the yellow dog were up ahead on the packed snow trail. We’d been out for an hour or so, hiking around in one of Duluth’s semi-wild patches of woods.
That’s when we remembered the moon would be full that evening. It would be nice to watch it rise over Lake Superior, we agreed. I pulled out my phone to check moonrise time in Duluth — 5:07 p.m. We had about 40 minutes. We could make it. We quickened our mukluk strides and made for the car.
I suppose there are plenty of places from which to watch a moonrise over Lake Superior in Duluth. Somewhere along Skyline Drive, maybe. Up on Hawk Ridge. Certainly the beach at Minnesota Point.
We decided to head for a spot near the mouth of the Lester River. We made it in time to poke around the shoreline, where roughly a million panes of clear Lake Superior ice had amassed themselves along the shore. We all know how this happens. On calm, cold winter days, the lake forms a skin of ice. It might be a quarter-inch thick, an inch thick, a couple inches thick.
At some point, inevitably, a wind of southerly or easterly origin begins to break up the skim of ice and usher it all to shore. The wind keeps on pushing until the ice is heaved up in windrows along the cobblestones and atop ancient basalt ledges.
This scene can be spectacular, especially in early evenings when the waning daylight is low and soft and rich. Some of the panes are nearly as big as home plate on a baseball diamond. They come in all sizes, mostly trapezoidal in shape.
One heap of these shards as large as a coffee table was topped with a single black rock the size of a fist, as if Mother Nature had dropped a puck. I was marveling at that unlikely juxtaposition when, without warning, the whole heap of ice simply collapsed into the shallows and vanished.
Farther along the shore, two triangular panes of ice had been shoved above the rest of the assembled icescape. They were backlit by the sunset glow and appeared to have been infused with liquid gold.
And then, right on schedule, the soft pink moon appeared above a band of blue on the eastern horizon, somewhere at least beyond Grand Portage. We watched the moon ascend into the pink evening sky and remind us Earthlings once again that our little planet is not alone in the universe.