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Full moon fever takes us outside

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Bitter Moon. Peach Moon. Cold Moon. Long Night Moon. Twelfth Moon. Big Winter Moon. Moon When the Wolves Run Together.

Every Native American culture has a special name for the still, giant beacon we're seeing above us this week. To the Cherokee, it's simply the moon that promises snow.

It's the full moon we all notice the most each year. The last oak leaves have fallen, the lower winter humidity makes for a clearer, grander night sky. It's my favorite moon.

Twenty-four hours a day, the woods are full of whispers and rustling. The sounds of hunting dogs carry, as shotguns and rifles randomly punctuate the usual dramatic winter quiet. Outdoors, at night, around the full moon, it's like we're on another planet. Or being invited to be part of a very special nature presentation, reminding us the solstice is near.

In cooler months, we usually have a weekend bonfire going in a clearing or at the edge of the garden.

This past weekend was no different. It got later and later, darker and darker. Then the moon rose. Where would you rather be?

My wife said, "I'm just staying out here," and curled up on a favorite bench, gazing skyward.

I took a break and headed toward the house. I can't even remember why. To check on the paper our daughter was writing? To feed the dogs? To check e-mail? To finish the sports section?

An hour later, when I went back to the bonfire, my wife was glowing, too.

"I've already seen two shooting stars," she smiled, not taking her eyes off the heavens.

I should have stayed outside.

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