Sunset comes early and dusk and nightfall quickly follow near the winter solstice. Christmas is among the shortest days of the year, and on this particular year I headed west on the trail, hoping to capture a beautiful sunset as heavy clouds gathered, then parted, and snow squalls and flurries filled the air. The timing did not work for my goal, but the blue and violet light was magic, seeming to suspend nightfall, delaying total darkness.
As I turned around toward the trailhead and home I looked up to see the reason why: a nearly full moon had risen in the east, brushing the snow draped on branches and twigs and land with delicately tinted light. The air was full of tiny sparkling crystals, the moon softened by a light haze of clouds and the sparkling flurry of snow between me and her.
The quiet was comforting and I felt a connection rather than isolation looking at that moon through the glistening air, connection with all others who would be looking at this same moon at that moment, and others who had seen it already, and those who would see it in coming hours, all over the world.
As I looked out and up and opened my awareness to take in this simple moment, feeling the quiet and the snow flurries brushing my face, words, the title of a poem, came to me, “Sure on this shining night…,” the title of an art song composed by Samuel Barber based on a poem, Description of Elysium, by James Agee. Though the poem speaks of starlight and high summer, the idea of connection, of peace, of healed hearts and kindness, were there:
Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far
Of shadows on the stars.
I photographed the moment to keep it more permanently in my memory, and to revisit the image whenever I wanted.
Read about the works
Sure on This Shining Night, Samuel Barber.
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