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What Have We to Give?

By Will Baker


Early one recent morning I watched the full moon slide across the sky. By New England standards, it had been a mild mid-winter evening, it couldn’t have been colder than twenty five degrees overnight, and as I stood there on my back porch, coffee in hand watching the stars twinkle, the moon cast feeble shadows on the snow covered ground. I had been roused out of sleep by thoughts of this and that, and rather than forcing the issue, I decided to climb out of bed and watch my part of the world come alive with the morning light.

I put the coffee on and bundled myself up in a robe and old coat and stepped outside. It was early morning, and the moon had already swung into the west and was starting to descend towards the mountains on the horizon. The landscape was "moon-bright" and all was utterly calm. I turned towards the east, but there was no sign yet of the sunrise. I went back inside to pour a cup, and then headed back outside, determined to start my week by greeting the day.

And as I stood there, with a steaming mug of coffee in hand, I watched a red fox carefully cross my backyard and then amble into my garden. It struck me as a strange hour for the fox to be up and about, but he evidently had some business that needed taking care of. I looked up at the moon again, and noted that it had dipped lower, closer to the peaks of the Adirondack Mountains that rise on the far shore of Lake Champlain. Then, turning to the east, I could see that the sky above the Green Mountains was beginning to lighten. I love morning light, and looked forward to letting it wash over my face.

I went back inside, and as I worked on my second cup, east to west the sky continued to lighten. In the growing light I could see that doves were now ground-feeding, picking in the snow where we had spread their winter banquet. There were six of them, and they fed appreciatively. Sensing that my time was nearly up, I went to the front of the house and stepped out into the dooryard. This time, I left my coat on its hook and stood there in my robe, feeling the chill. I live on the outskirts of a small village, and I could hear it coming alive. Delivery trucks were moving, and traffic was beginning to flow across the bridge over Otter Creek. Another day had dawned. Another week was in the offing.

And that afternoon, as I commuted home I was treated to a twin feature. I was nearing my house, driving slowly up a frozen snow covered dirt road, with farm fields extending from both sides of the lane. I drove around a bend in the road, past a small hill that was in the foreground to the west, and for a moment I had a clear view to the horizon. The sun was rapidly slipping below those very same mountains above which I had observed the moon doing her dance that morning. The sky was incredible, to the west it was alive with color, but to the east night had fallen and the moonrise was already happening. The sun disappeared, but the remaining light cast amber hues upon the western sky and pink and purple tones on the mountains, while to the east, a fat moon was rising, and a few stars were beginning to twinkle fretfully.

That was Monday, and it is now Saturday. The week has passed, and here in Vermont it has turned noticeably colder. We had a good snowstorm, and I managed to catch a cold. But even though the moon has waned, and I am sitting here writing with a stuffy nose, the sun is shining brightly and I have to smile. For I set the abstracted machinations of humanity that I have observed during this past week against the sky and it’s movements and I wonder if our actions deserve such an exquisite backdrop. The sky contributes beauty and evokes wonder, but what have we to give?




 (Essay Collection)