It’s Mid-Autumn today.
At least… in Hong Kong it is.
Here in North Dakota – our new/old home – well, there really is no such thing. I mean, there IS a Mid-Autumn, but it most certainly wouldn’t be today. I mean, the autumnal equinox was only, what, 6 days ago? Today is not “mid” anything. We like to keep things literal in these parts.
Though to be fair, in a land where the first snow and ice of winter can come at any time — who knows? Autumn may only last 12 days after all! One can only hope that is not the case.
The arrival of Mid-Autumn festival makes my heart homesick for Hong Kong. It’s one of my favorite holidays there. The long weekend away from school, the lanterns, the moon cakes, the “would-be-tacky-if-it-didn’t-light-up-so-cool-at-night” park displays. I love the children running down the promenade with their lanterns dangling ahead of them and the hint of a breeze reassuring us that relief from the oppressive heat and humidity is just around the corner. I love Shatin Park. I love the look of the full moon hovering over the skyscrapers and reflecting off the canal. I love the relaxed atmosphere of the holiday — nothing like the noise and frenzy of Chinese New Year. Mid-Autumn Festival is like taking a deep breath and slowly releasing it out in a contented sigh.
And these images that dance across my brain of my home — my other home — make my heart hurt tonight.
Tonight in North Dakota we had our own celebration of the moon. And this one tiptoed in quietly with nothing to buy and no crowds to shuffle slowly through – though it certainly did not lack an impressive light display.
Tonight we experienced a lunar eclipse of a full harvest moon.
For two nights we’ve seen this beastly-sized moon rise over the prairie, breathtaking enough to stop you in your tracks. Right now the moon is as close to Earth as it can be, and out here, with no trees or houses or even small hills to impede your sight line – well, you feel as if you can almost reach out and touch it as it sits perched on the horizon. For two nights I’ve struggled to fall asleep because of the sheer amount of light emitting from that heavenly body. There is, after all, no city light to wash out the full impact — no smog to haze over it.
And tonight, my friends, the big show arrived. The full eclipse. Out on the prairie, all house lights shut off, bonfire dying down – it was just us and that mid-Autumn moon; and it was glorious.
But more glorious even than the moon was what happened when it went away. Because, my friends, that is when the sky exploded with stars. Hong Kong has a thousand beautiful sights to behold, but it admittedly suffers from a significant star-deficiency. My son used to actually COUNT stars at Ma On Shan park… on one hand. Inevitably one would always be an airplane, but I chose never to tell him so – letting him believe he’d seen five instead of only four.
But tonight? Tonight as I directed his gaze upward his eyes turned to saucers. The lad said, “Mama I will count them!” and then proceeded to say, “1, 2, 3, 4 (thoughtful pause)… Mama, there’s 100 stars up there!”
“Only 100?” I asked, eyebrows raised.
“No. There’s a million, silly-on stars!” he replied.
And he was right. There were stars upon stars stretching across the entire dome of the sky. With the moon completely shielded from view you could see deep into the heavens and drink in as much as you could handle until your neck begged you to return your gaze to terra firma.
Hong Kong celebrates the moon.
And so does North Dakota
And while these two celebrations look about as different from one another as I can imagine — my heart holds each close because the moon I marvel at tonight is the same one that dangles over Shatin Park, peeks through a maze of skyscrapers, and dances across the waters of Tolo Harbor.
Tonight I am blessedly reminded that our homes are not so far away after all.
Photo credit for the eclipse goes to my dear friend Christine Baumann – a fellow Hong Kong/North Dakota transplant