When Anna and I left the house about 9 pm the temperature was about 10 degrees with patchy clouds. We could see the moon through holes in the clouds; it was already looking less than round. We walked down Popp road towards Lake Leelanau only using the flashlight at the corner so that drivers could see us should they turn off the main road.
We walked when the moon was behind the clouds and stopped when it came out. By the time we reached the lake, the moon was less than half. Snowmobile tracks told us where the ice was strong so we walked out on the lake and stood there, back to the wind, for a long time.
There was a big patch of open sky with stars right above us. I thought I was looking at Cassiopeia, but I couldn't be sure. Anna said that the clouds looked so close she thought she could put her hand up and knock them out of the way. We could see lights from the new courthouse on the horizon, lights from the casino fainter and more to the north, lights from Leland on the other side. Anna thought that she saw a bonfire on the opposite shore of the lake, but I thought it was just yard lights.
The moon got smaller. Now we could see the dark part of the moon faintly glowing red. When the lit part was a little bigger than a fingernail we watched our big patch of open sky close up without ever making it to the moon. We started for home.
On the way home, we walked with our eyes on the moon. It was just a sliver now, sliding in and out of the clouds and the trees. We knew if we lost sight of it, we wouldn't know where to look to find it again. We didn't need to watch the road, we just walked and looked at the moon. Finally, the moon was just a bare sliver and the clouds were closing in. We stopped and stared at the moon, just above the tops of the trees, covered then revealed by the clouds. The trees swayed back and forth in the wind; we stared until it seemed the moon was swaying back and forth. We tried so hard to see the moon that the trees suddenly jumped out in their own vivid relief. There was nothing left in the sky but clouds and building lights.
Even with no moon there was enough light pollution to light our way. Anna wanted to know what the various glows were from. She remembered when I used to go to town board meetings to protest the streetlights in Lake Leelanau. We talked about how little lights add up to a ruined night sky, but everybody thinks that someone else is to blame.
There were no cars on the way home. There were no more holes in the clouds. The snow was soft on the side of the road. I walked through the gate, but Anna walked on the drifts over the fence.