Harvest Moon

It’s the season of Autumn when the legendary Harvest Moon turns and burns bright orange in the southern sky – September 19 this year. That’s an important date in our family because it’s my granddaughter’s birthday. She’ll be six.

Isabella was born September 19, a day after the birthday of her Grandma, known in our family as Grandma Angel, who lives up in Heaven now.

It was uncanny. When her mother – my daughter Rebecca – went to the doctor pregnant, she answered all his questions, then heard him predict September 18 as the due date.

“That’s my mother’s birthday,” Rebecca exclaimed six years and seven months ago.

Isabella never met her Grandma, who died tragically in a drowning accident off the Pacific coast of Guatamala. That was February 29, 2004 – yes, leap year – 3½ years before Isabella was born. Now I write stories for Isabella about Grandma Angel, who went to Heaven (as the story goes) while swimming in the ocean, up the Stairway to Heaven.

As Grandma Angel was frolicking in the water, the sky opened up and God dropped a long ladder down to where she was swimming.

Curious as always, Grandma Angel climbed the Stairway to Heaven to see what was happening. There was a lot of commotion. Little did she know it was all about her arrival. A band was playing and the Angels were singing.

When she reached the top, high above the clouds, God yanked the ladder back up, and Grandma Angel had to stay, living happily ever after…in Heaven, if you please.

The term “Harvest Moon” refers to the first full moon of the Fall Equinox. It’s orange colour is caused by light being reflected off dirt and dust particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s one of two times in the year when the lengths of day and night are the same. The other time is around March 21.

Tonight I look at the moon, almost full and already changing colour, from my artist’s garret in Leipzig, Saskatchewan, 1½ hours west of Saskatoon.
I live in an old four-storey structure built in 1927 as a convent and boarding school, run by German nuns from the Order of Notre Dame, originating in the Black Forest of Bavaria.

My room has ceilings that slant on both sides up to arched, stained-glass windows. When I look out at night I can see the moon, almost full tonight, in the southern sky above the steeple of St. Pascal’s Roman Catholic Church where Mass is said every second Sunday. The church is the only structure still standing in the abandoned village of Leipzig, kept up by farmers in the area and former parishioners living in Wilkie, a 15-minute drive north.

Neglected since 1969 when the nuns moved away, the building fell victim to disrepair until 2008 when Ardyth Clark, a 28-year-sober wonder woman, bought it and in five years restored it to its former beauty. She turned it into an addictions treatment centre that is unique to say the least. What makes it special is the love she exudes. Long before she bought the building, she took home suffering addicts from AA meetings on a regular basis to help them sober up.

“We never knew who would be sleeping on the couch in the morning,” one of her two daughters said about that period in their suburban family life.

Three years after the convent was restored and the recovery program was well underway, a client said: “If God were a woman, I met her here in Ardyth.”

I’m one of the lucky recipients of the love Ardyth and her staff members show. I came here after a relapse, knowing that at 75 years this would be my last chance to recover from drug addiction. I didn’t really want to go home after completing Leipzig’s five-week course, so I asked Ardyth one day near the end of the program if she had ever commissioned a book to be written about this place.

Her eyes lit up. “Come and see me…I’ve got some information for you,” she said.

So that’s how come I got moved from a smaller room one floor down up here to this 4th-floor garret where I work on my computer by day and from where I can see the moon by night when Autumn skies are clear.

The moon has moved west now and will soon disappear.

I’m looking forward to seeing a Harvest Moon during the next few nights, and I’m going to tell my granddaughter Isabella to look carefully. She might spot Grandma Angel going for a joy ride.

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