Life on the Streets: The full moon

By Helen Hill, Street Roots

On 19 April, early in the morning, the sidewalk outside Portland-based Street Roots was alive with talk of the gleaming full moon the night before. Some vendors were enchanted and left their rooms, tents, and shelter mats to gaze at it as it rose over local Mount Hood. Others, sensitive to the heightened energy that the full moon often brings, found a hiding place to wait out the night.

One way or another, the full moon seemed to have a pronounced effect on Street Roots vendors.

Vince Masiello, who sleeps outside, described his experience: “Last night it was clear and cloudy. You could see the full moon come through the clouds, then hide behind them, so at different hours of the night it was everywhere and nowhere. It kind of lit up the whole city, but just for the homeless people. Everyone else goes inside after 9pm.”

For Don Peterson, the full moon brought a feeling of renewal and a chance for a spiritual conversation: “I stayed on my favorite bridge – the Tillikum. I go up there for the lights,” he said. “I sit on the benches. I don’t have anywhere else go to. You see different lights through the city. It was around 1am; it was such a beautiful full moon. It looked big, and it was kind of cold, clouds were coming in and out.

“Another reason I’m out there on the Tillikum Bridge is it’s easier for me to talk to my higher power out loud,” Don explained. “Otherwise, it makes me sound like just one of those people talking to themselves. It’s the second-highest bridge in Portland, and I look at the lights, and I know I’m not bad. Seeing that full moon on the bridge, it put me in a good mood, and that was unusual for me. I felt mellow. Spring is a time of new life. That moon started me thinking maybe I am in one of those new cycles, started me rethinking some things in my life.”

“It kind of lit up the whole city, but just for the homeless people.”

For others, increased danger was a real concern.

“I have a few full moons under my belt,” another vendor, Robert Waters, said. “When the full moon comes out, you have to watch your back. You have to look left, right, and backwards. You just have to make sure you are safe. Some people are oblivious, some are on edge, some are consumed by the full moon. It’s like a stage someone goes through. Some are perplexed by it. They say the full moon has a pull on our spirit,” he said.

Kat McDonald agreed, “People are more uninhibited and suspicious when the moon is full. There are more fights. But we walked back to our camp across the bridge around midnight with the full moon shining on the water, and it was beautiful.”

Lori DeTie felt a heightened sense of madness and danger.

“Last night was insane,” Lori said. “The moon was so close. The crazy people were normal, and the normal people were crazy. Somebody got shot. When the moon is full it pulls the tides, and it pulls people stronger.”

Dale Brisbane said he hears a lot more sirens with a full moon: “You see people acting more aggressively than they normally would. People that you know seem to be more agitated or more vocal. They may not be abusive, but they are louder. I keep away from everybody, but I do that regardless.”

Raven and her boyfriend sleep in a doorway, keeping off the streets and away from the chaos as much as they can: “People tend to be more wild and uninhibited,” she said. “I stay in and away. Just being a woman, it can be dangerous.”

Photo by Ganapathy Kumar on Unsplash

Chris Smith described his experience staying in a shelter on the night of the full moon, “At the shelter last night, so many people were talking so much louder. You couldn’t hear yourself think. I always pay more attention during the full moon. People act out a lot more and they tend to be more difficult to deal with. There’s more police activity on a full moon,” he said.

Adam Becker talked about a similar experience, “It’s definitely more noticeable. People are awake longer when the moon is full. They are antsier. There’s more anxiety. But there’s also life, activity, people listening to music, dancing. It’s loud during a full moon. I usually try to hide until it’s over.”

I asked Adam where he hides.

“As a person without a residence,” he said, “it’s better to be where you aren’t normally. You go somewhere different every night. It’s difficult when you try to develop a routine, like being at the Street Roots office on Friday mornings, but if you go somewhere else every night, that’s a good safety mechanism to stay alive. No one knows where you are going to be next. You don’t even know where you are until you get there.”

Paul Ortiz agreed, “Yep, there’s some people that come out to be crazy with the full moon. It’s the energy. I’m not always outside, but the people that are outside, I still pray for them to keep their spirits high,” he said.

For other vendors, a full moon sparks childhood memories and feelings of beauty and awe. Jason Everly is often awake at night, collecting bottles and cans, and fully experienced the recent full moon.

“People are more uninhibited and suspicious when the moon is full.”

“This last one was close. I like close-up full moons, like to stare at the crags and valleys. It’s the scientist in me, I guess. When I was little, I used to think the moon was following along with us in the car.”

For Brandon M., full moons bring a sense of relief: “The world feels so much lighter. I prefer it.”

Melissa Watch also found calm in the chaotic night, “I enjoy practicing Tai Chi at night by the light of the moon. It’s a bonus if the Big Dipper is visible. The moon has calming properties. It’s good to let the light wash through your system. Midnight is the best time.”

George McCarthy sells Street Roots near a local pharmacy, “You can see the full moon up off to the left,” he described. “It’s really pretty. There’s a lot of rainbows over there too. The full moon in the morning is pretty. The sky is light blue, and the moon is coming up, so it’s a mixture of both moon and sky. It doesn’t take long for the sun to burn everything off, and then you can’t see it.”

Gabriel Bradford said that since he’s found a higher power, he sees a lot of beauty in the world he didn’t appreciate before: “Everything looks different to me. It amazes me, all the shadows and shades that I didn’t notice because I was too involved in my daily life,” he said.

“At night after dinner, I go to the river and focus on the geese or the sunset or whatever beauty is there. It’s helped a lot. The other night right before sunset, I was facing Mount Hood and the full moon was just to the left of the mountain. It reminded me of a beautiful painting my mom did of Mount Hood with the full moon right above.”