A couple years back I became interested in a new idea after reading an interview with photographer Sam Abell. Abell, a celebrated National Geographic photographer with a 35-year career, now lives in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. In the interview, he mentions a personal project called the Moon List.

In his words: "Every full moon, my wife and I construct something we call the Moon List, and the Moon List is about 25 questions that have evolved over 10 years or so to reconstruct the past 30 days since the last full moon."

I wrote to Abell, requesting to see the other questions on his list...and for permission to recreate his idea through the perspectives of different contributors.

Each month I ask three different women to respond to a list of questions. I have found it interestingly difficult to remember what has happened in the near past; consider the idea a sort of checking in with how time is spent, recalled, reflected on.

— Leigh Patterson

The Original Moon List + Descriptions:


An intimate experience with the natural world. Example: this summer the cicadas arrived, by the billions. The sight and sound of them was significant.


This is the only category with two entries—old object and new object. An old object is one that’s been around but this month was rediscovered, brought forward, or valued in some way that ‘woke us up’ to it. Example: Setting out my dad’s arrowhead collection. A new object is one that entered our life this month in a meaningful way. Example: Denise finally got a computer.


An out-of-the-blue experience that has strong surprise, even shock, qualities. Example: I opened a little-used clothes cupboard in our old house and startled a squirrel nesting with new-born babies in an old fleece jacket.


Typically this is an encounter with a stranger or an acquaintance that resonates.

night out:

Most memorable occasion when out at night.

day out:

Sorting through the days away from home for the most meaningful one and writing it up.

time alone:

A telltale category for us. Denise has much time alone; I much less. This is one of those categories that tell us about the variance in our lives.

time with a friend:

A way to value the best time we spent with a friend by writing it up.

movie / tv / book:

A trio of categories that reveal how we live. No book this month? Mostly TV? No movies? Many movies? Two great books?

creative act:

I teach workshops and give lectures. These can be creative acts. But there are also domestic acts that are creative. For example, I make a design project out of the stacking of redwood.