On Halloween Eve 2020, some friends and I went for a night hike. How could we not? Winter had set in early, with darker days and snow already there to stay. We were facing our first winter of the pandemic, with holiday gatherings scaled back and the lakeside social events that had buoyed us through the summer coming to an end.
But what dragged us out of the house in the end was neither Halloween itself nor the prospect of a waning social life. Instead, it was the serendipity of the lunar cycle, which presented us with not just the Hunter’s Moon but also a Blue Moon. When it’s Halloween and a full moon, you don’t just spend that night at home pilfering mini Twix bars from your kids’ candy bags. You’re a hunter; you stalk the trail of adventure.
With its full moon, Halloween 2020 was particularly spooky. Ancient peoples believed that the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred on this night, giving ghosts of those who had passed access to the world of the living. Metaphorically, Halloween 2020 seemed an omen for the times, with so many already dead from COVID-19 and so many more to be lost in the months ahead. The boundaries between everything seemed blurred: home and work, home and school, pajamas and office wear.
Hiking to a mountaintop under a Blue Hunter’s Moon, however, took us for a few hours out of pandemic groupthink. Giddy with exertion, with the snap of cold on our faces and the crunch of snow underfoot, riding sugar-highs from popcorn balls wolfed down on the summit, we said “We should do this again.”
So we did, 11 more times. Every full moon for the next year, we ventured out to snowshoe or ski, hike or swim.
In moments when I wasn’t skittering down an icy ski trail or trying to ignore the shiver of lake weeds against my ankles I thought, “I should write about these full moon outings.” But when the year was over I found it hard to assign meaning to these moonlight forays. They were, for the most part, both glorious and ordinary: unremarkable in the big picture, but a godsend to the alien new social space we were occupying. The full moon adventures were, I realized only afterwards, touchstones of normalcy: a dozen sturdy anchors in a year that otherwise felt a bit unmoored.