He Promised Me The Moon
By Elizabeth OuYang
The occasion was August Moon Festival. On September 21, 2002, 9 of us including Yet and Elisa Chang’s dog, Tobby,
backpacked 1 ½ hours slowly up Harriman mountain in hopes of seeing the moon. Loaded with a bottle of wine, pots, gas burners, dog food, water, tents, sleeping bags, human food, clothing and, of course, an
assortment of moon cakes, Yet and Elisa, Winnie Ng, Nancy Liang and Seita Tamaoka backpacks were stuffed to the brim. Charlie Ong and I had to return that evening so our day packs felt like feathers in
comparison to the boulders on their backs. Sweating, panting, with drenched t-shirts, everyone made it to the top following Tobby.
We quickly found our own niche in the mountains tucked far away from other
Everyone helped the overnighters pitched their tents. Charlie, using nature’s resources, moved rocks to form a semi-circle of chairs as we prepared dinner. With three gas burners going, we cooked noodles, vegetables, and dumplings. Coming up the trail, George Li and Lily and made a surprise visit, adding duck, chicken and chia siu pork to our celebration. Yet popped open the bottle of red wine and Seta brought out his private stash of beer. We had everything, but the moon. We waited and waited, eating and talking. As the sky became darker, the clouds began to shift. Yet, no sign of the moon.
After eating a full dinner, we laid down on mattress pads facing the sky. It was so warm outside that we didn’t even use blankets. Out came the assortment of Taiwan and Hong Kong made moon
cakes-green tea, red bean, and yellow bean-fruit and nuts.
But where was the moon? Yet and Charlie offered to improvise with their “man made moons”, but the women all preferred the real thing. Charlie kept saying we had to leave in the next 15 minutes. I was worried that Charlie and I would have to leave without seeing the moon, but Charlie promised me the moon so we waited. To keep Charlie distracted, Yet, Charlie and George made a beautiful fire burning firewood from the mountain brush between three boulders. We talked about everything –Clinton’s search for new interns, George Bush and war, whether silk pajamas really keep people warm, new recipes, and what would be our alibi if we accidentally started a fire in the mountain.
Then suddenly, a white full moon appeared through the branches. We jumped up to get an unobstructed view.
We gazed and gazed at it. It was beautiful. Winnie told us of the story behind the August moon festival of a woman who stole medicine and then was immediately shot to the moon with her rabbit. Elisa, convinced since childhood, insisted she saw the image of the woman and the rabbit in the moon. I looked closer and sure enough, the eyes, head and body of the woman and her rabbit began to appear. It was so peaceful and so simple living on the mountain with the moon as our scenery. There was nothing standing in the way between us and the moon.
Close to 11 p.m., Charlie reminded me we really needed to leave in the next 15 minutes. George and Lily also had to go back. After saying our goodbyes, the four of us descended with headlights
What an adventure. Since the first quarter of the route was open on top of the mountain along a winding maze in and out of various flat boulders, it was difficult to spot the white dots. While George and Charlie were confident, Lily and I were petrified. In the beginning, we would hike several times in one direction realizing we were wrong and have to all backtrack. Finally, George told Lily and I to stay put and Charlie and him would find the next dot and then shine their flashlights for us to follow. It was so quiet, dark, and mysterious. George and Charlie’s sense of direction was very acute and soon they maneuvered us to where the path finally descended. We followed single file with just the glow from the flashlight as our guide, shining on the rocks, the hidden crevices, and the steps down. Suddenly there was a rustle in the woods, and we spotted two deer. I stood frozen. Charlie quickly reassured me that deer don’t eat humans. We kept going. In less than an hour, we made it down shortly before midnight. Although we had the best gifted guides, Lily and I said next time, we stay overnight!
Charlie and I stayed in the park until 3 minutes after midnight so we could officially say we stayed “over night in the mountains” watching the moon.
As we left the park, Charlie shone his car lights on a herd of deer standing still.
The following morning, the remaining five made breakfast and descended the mountain. It took them an hour and ¼ to
reach the bottom in broad daylight! Why it took so long is a mystery, especially since they had Tobby as a guide!! In any event, the occasion marked the passage of another holiday and the start of a new