Monday, September 15, 2008

A Mooncake Festival to Remember

Last night was the Chinese Mooncake Festival. Many folktales revolve around the festival, when the largest moon of the year peers down orange and round and harmonious. This is a time of family gathering, a kind of Chinese Thanksgiving. Our family, busy with school starting and sports and friends, celebrated in a different way this year. By accident.
Some friends invited us on a hike in their backyard. A hike in the backyard, you think (as I did). Why, that will be fun. That won't take too long. Only my husband and my youngest and I were interested though. We left the others at home and went off for this beautiful, short hike around 4:30.
“It's a bit rugged at first,” our friends said. (But they were bringing along their five-year-old. How bad could it be? )
I felt like we had entered the world of Tarzan. Dirt crumbled and rocks slid from underfoot as we made our way down the mountain. I grasped onto vines and branches to keep my footing. My legs trembled from weariness.
At the bottom was a beautiful reservoir where the kids swam. What an amazing world we had entered. Just from our friend's backyard. In the back of my mind, though, I kept wondering how in the world we were going to pull ourselves back up.
“There's an easier path home,” our friends assured. I held onto that word, “easier,” like dessert after a month of avoiding sweets.
We lounged around the reservoir until the sky started to turn grey. Our friends suggested we better get going. They'd never stayed down there so late. We exchanged stories about people getting caught in the dark at campsites (or as in my case) in my own neighborhood. We giggled about having to get down on hands and knees to find our path home. Then we headed off on the easier path.
Oh, that was nice. A wide road, no tree trunks to balance on, no branches to hold onto. We were reveling in the ease of it all, thinking of dinner. (The five-year-old had his pasta with red sauce already planned. ) The sky was getting dark fast.
"We're almost there," our friend said, leading us off the wide road to another narrow path, a shortcut that would lead to an offshoot into the back of someone else's property. We walked along this narrow path, hugging the mountain, as the other side dropped off into oblivion.
Just as we were about to lose all light, just as we should have been to the end of our journey, our friend called out to his wife, "Did we miss the cut off?”
He was sure we had gone past the cut off that led to the property we could exit from. So we stumbled our way back. But no, there was no cut off there. We tried moving forward again. The surrounding got darker and darker, as though we had entered a cave. My youngest thought she heard a sound Was there an animal out here? She accidentally kicked a rock and we heard it thump, thump, thump, thump all the way down the cliff.
“I just want to go home,” she whispered grabbing onto my waist.
It was so dark. We were hungry and cold. We had no idea where we were or where we were supposed to be. I was ready to get down on my hands and knees.
Just then a huge spotlight shone through the trees. A rescue helicopter? Had one of our sons called help for us?
The moon, the roundest, brightest moon of the year, shone down like a flashlight, giving us light and hope to move forward. Then came another spotlight--this one a flashlight--from a neighbor who had come to show us the way. What a difference all that light makes.
It was as we were walking home by the light of the moon that my husband and I realized we had been wanting to do a full-moon hike for a long time, and--by the way--isn't it almost the Mooncake Festival?


shoko alberding said...

I'm glad that you enjoyed your hike under the moon. It must have been romantic night, too. We were not able to see a full moon this year because of some cloud in Saitama. So, I ate a "Geppei" from my student at school.

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

It was beautiful, and once we made it to "safety" (meaning we had figured out where we were), yes it was romantic. The following night, we ate mooncakes at the school where we could see the bright round moon shining down on us.

mommycupcake said...

Lovely post!

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

Thank you!

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