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What a marvelous night for a moon walk

On Election Night, 25 hearty souls performed a full moon walk in downtown Providence

Photo courtesy of Jessica David

A contingent of 25 hearty souls took a full moon walk in downtown Providence on Nov.8

Photo by Kia Davis

The full moon on Nov. 8, as captured in a photograph through a telescope eyepiece, during the moonwalk.

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By Jessica David
Posted 11/14/22
A full moon walk in downtown Providence offered a chance to refresh the soul, not the Twitter feed.
What makes Providence a beautiful city – the buildings, the rivers, or the people? How can we do a better job of encouraging pedestrians to walk in our parks? Why do so many people attempt to demonize Providence as being an unsafe place?
Of all the full moon walks, the ones that I most recall occurred in western Massachusetts, walking along the path atop the Holyoke Range in the fall of 1973, the east-west volcanic mountain range serving as the last barrier to megalopolis, with the Connecticut River shimmering in the distance. A year earlier, in 1972, I had paddled a canoe on an April full moon down that river, from Sunderland to Hadley, imagining the trees bent over the river’s shoreline as stevedores, flailing to keep the currents from sending children off to war. A third full moon, in June of 1982, illuminated the dance of thousands of fireflies in a hay meadow in Montague.

PROVIDENCE – The moon rose bright and full over Providence on Nov. 8. Twenty-five hearty souls – including several below the age of 10 – laced up their walking shoes and gathered at the Michael Van Leesten Pedestrian Bridge for a strolll through downtown.

Clutching cups of hot chocolate and warm cider, we followed the Providence River to its origin, following the bend of the Woonasquatucket River toward Waterplace Park.

At the Waterplace Basin, we huddled on the footbridge and stared reverently at the moon hovering above the buildings that abut the park.

It was a holy moment. Hushed, calm, cool and brisk – extraordinary, in a very ordinary way. Even in today’s world, there is something about the full moon in the night sky that takes our breath away.

Purely social
I’m biased, I confess. Working with the Downtown Providence Parks Network, I helped organize Tuesday’s moonlit walk. Unlike other programs we’ve hosted, this one was not planned as an educational event or artistic performance. It was purely social, a chance to connect with our natural world and each other. Local astronomy superstar Jason Major strode along with us, sharing his knowledge in bite-sized chunks for those of us who don’t spend much time thinking about space, the solar system, or the craters on the moon.

One couple was celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary. A young scholar got a jumpstart on some moon-related homework assigned by his science teacher. For a few brief moments, we all became friends and fellow students. Jason offered us the gift of peeking through his telescope to see the moon, Jupiter’s moons, and Mars. [One of the younger participants was disappointed with Mars, “It doesn’t look like much,” he sniffed.]

To be experienced
I felt as though I had reclaimed a tiny bit of the darkening days. As we stood on the Waterplace Basin footbridge, I lamented that the photos I attempted to take on my phone were poor imitations of what we were seeing. “That’s the point,” a woman responded.
She was right.

The moment was not something to capture and post to social media followers; it could only be experienced and shared, fleetingly, with the circle of people I stood with.

The point was to notice the moon shining brightly in a dark and clear sky. A full moon has a texture and depth to it that you can see when it’s full, even without Jason’s telescope. To notice the ways building and streetlights reflect on the rippling river. To notice the way parents take care of their children, and to notice the things that catch the attention of a child.

The point was to be together and to be present in a place that is shared by all of us.

My point, also, was to say thank you – not aloud or in a performative manner, but quietly within my heart, to express gratitude for the beautiful place we inhabit, for lights in the darkness, for a few minutes of respite, for the company of the world on a cold evening.

Moving my body and talking to neighbors about everything and nothing made me feel part of the world in a way I never do while sitting at my desk or on my couch.

Refreshing the soul
It was Election Night, of course. Somewhere, there was important counting happening, and people were chattering endlessly and anxiously about the outcomes of several pivotal races.

I could have been home refreshing my Twitter feed for the most up-to-date election results or hot takes. Instead, I refreshed my soul with hot chocolate and a walk with my neighbors in our beautiful city.

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