I took Rosie on a moonlit walk tonight.
At night, the park area around the pond in our neighborhood is an oasis. Totally unlit, it is especially separate from the streets that surround it. Most walkers would find it forbidding, with no artificial lighting, hemmed in by darkly shadowed woods on three sides. A lack of illumination keeps many of my neighbors out.
But I find it freeing. Away from the aggressive brightness of porch lights and high beams, the moon comes into its full strength. On a night like tonight, past half full in a cold, clear sky, the moon is a spotlight high above my head. Its silvery white light casts clear, sharp shadows of tree branches onto the gravel path, turning blue as it hints at darkness.
Instead of blaring brightness and inscrutable shadow, we walk through soft light and dim shade, gently allowing the eyes to adapt. The charcoal-colored path stands out definite against the darker grass on the sides. As we stroll, Rosie’s inky blackness flows clear-cut against the gray gravel. The moon shines brightly enough to bring out the reflections in her coat as it bunches and slides over itself, armor against the cold. I see her triangle ears perked, her head turned, her bright eye picking out some detail across the pond.
I ignore the distant signs of the humanity surrounding us—the rush of tires on the busy main street, the headlight beams picking their way through the adjacent houses, the occasional bark of a dog frustrated at not wandering beneath the moon tonight. I hear only the movement of my hood and the crunch of gravel beneath my feet. I speak to the dog in quiet tones, my usual sharp commands softened by the witness of the moon. They say one should speak often to the dog, but tonight there is little need for voice. We are unusually in tune.
I call her to me, and stop to pet her. Rosie presses her head against my knee, a familiar posture, comfortable and connecting. I stroke her head, neck and ears. The heat of her body bleeds through her fur into my leg.
We continue on, past quiet houses and empty paths. As we exit through a shrub-lined sidewalk, Rosie strains to the side, toward where we found a tiny, noisy kitten last fall. “No collecting cats for you tonight,” I tell her, and we move on.
The house is hot when we return.