The new moon is nearly impossible to see, and I’ve been searching for it periodically ever since I saw a 3 day old moon setting over Sangui in Dogon country in Mali, Africa. I thought it was the new moon, but was gently told by Humbargo, our Dogon research assistant, that it was a three day moon. I suppose if moonlight were my main nocturnal illumination, I’d know better what moon it was. Since that December trip with my sister to Mali in 2005, I’ve tried to be more mindful of the moon. But the new moon still escapes me. It tracks the sky at nearly the same time as the sun, so we had only about ten minutes between sunset and moonset. Houston is too light polluted for good moon watching when the moon is new, so we drove south on 288, the fastest way out of town from Bellaire. There was a lot of traffic coming into town, and the sun was getting close to the horizon. At Beltway 8 we decided to turn off and head to Tom Bass Park. It was a bit east of 288, and it was a bit incongruous to drive east to watch the sun set, but that’s silly. We pulled in, parked, and climbed a large berm built around their outdoor theatre. It was also part of a frisbee golf course. From there we watched the sun set, and then looked for the moon. I suppose it would have been slightly south of where the sun set, and we looked hard for it. An unidentified hawk flew slowly by. Earlier we saw a kestrel on a wire. In the distance were some kids playing on the theater steps. The sky was still red from the sun, an ordinary sunset, typical for a blue sky day. It takes some clouds for a great sunset. We used our binoculars and searched for the moon, but it did not reveal itself. Wrong time? Wrong place? Too much light? Who knows.
We waited and ultimately satisfied ourselves with the 3 day moon that is a lovely sliver, and easily seen. Tom Bass park is a typical east Texas park. It is mostly mowed bermuda grass, cut too short. Interspersed are fire ant mounds, revealed by their loose soil, begging to be stirred. When we stirred them, we saw alates, winged reproductives, planning to emerge at the worst season for new nests. The sheared fields were edged with forest, and I later saw that the southern border had a nature trail along a bayou that might bear checking out.
I think of the parks in northern Michigan, with pines, beeches, maples, oaks, and natural lakes, campsites discreetly spaced, and compare them to this bermuda grass desert. In Texas you need a deer lease to get to natural areas, and even then, near Houston are so, so few.