“Because I’m still in love with you

I want to see you dance again.

Because I’m still in love with you

On this harvest moon.”

— Neil Young

It’s finally arrived.

The heat and smoke have biffed off, to steal a favorite Wodehouse term, and I can finally emerge from my summer stupor.

Fall has been my choice of seasons ever since my first jack-o'-lantern, and Octobers in Southern Oregon get my vote for best month. It is that great month of anticipation — of life, harvest and a more tolerable lineup of outdoor activities. The sun changes from an unforgiving ruler by day, softening into that more agreeable slant of light. I wish October could last forever, but then I would wear out my fall colored sweaters.

There’s something inspiring about a full moon, too. Extreme commitments of crime or lifelong devotion are said to occur under its spell. Whether for love or lunacy, that big spotlight in the sky commands attention. And when the first autumn full moon shines, I want to gather it in my arms along with everything good the season holds and share it with my friends.

The gravitational pull of the tides during a full moon is scientific fact, while the lunar experience affecting human behavior remains unsubstantiated. I am a romantic. Blame it on the moon if you must. I think I’m just made that way. I love looking out my kitchen window and being surprised by the moon looking back like an old friend. He is a reliable neighbor who hasn’t allowed the recent celebrity of the eclipse go to his head.

This Thursday we get the Full Hunter Moon and the Harvest Moon, since the latter is the one that rises closest to the autumnal equinox and can land either in September or October. The Full Hunter is an obvious nod to the time of year when native people hunted fattened prey to prepare for winter. We still do that, only my fattened prey come in the form of hopeful spiders wanting in from the cold. They don’t end up in my larder, but do feel the brunt of a hunter’s purpose. OK, sometimes I walk them outside if they cooperate and aren’t too big and leggy.

According to the experts at Accuweather.com, studies have shown that a full moon may affect sleep patterns in people. But the brightness may have played a bigger part before modern lighting, when a moon-bright night kept folks awake. It also afforded the farmer a longer day to harvest his crops when we lived closer to the land. Moonlight charges the night with more soul than a mere street light.

Now that autumn has arrived, a cloth scarecrow with one lone crow on his shoulder welcomes visitors to my front door. An identical fellow takes his post on the inside, made by grandma Goby. We made them in the pleasure of each other’s company, and they are yearly regulars.

Fall brings aromas of baking in this house. Now that I don’t fret over heating up the kitchen, I can make rose shortbread cookies, chocolate zucchini bread, and ... pies.

Soon the time will come to watch “To Kill a Mockingbird,” with wine and spiced cider. Those in attendance will be asked to scarcely breathe until composer Elmer Bernstein’s hauntingly beautiful opening credit music runs through and I’m teary-eyed. Once more I will admire Scout’s ham costume for the Maycomb, Alabama, fall pageant and look closely to see how I can fashion one for myself from chicken wire and papier mache.

A few weeks from now, we will hop aboard Jacksonville’s haunted trolley, subjecting ourselves to sad stories of untimely deaths, strange forms in the dark, and the camaraderie of rolling through the semi-deserted streets at night, when the dear old town really does revert to the 1800s and a chilling breeze flips our hair and touches our hands.

Happy autumn, everyone. Enjoy a slow dance under that moon.

— Peggy Dover is a freelance writer living in Eagle Point. Email her at pcdover@hotmail.com.