After a week of clouds and rain, the Full Moon came back with a bang. Never has a lovesick swain looked on the face of his beloved more passionately and hypnotically than I did this morning on the protean aspects of the tree-veiled Goddess, and never have I come so close to suspending disbelief and feeling that I was in the presence of a transcendent "reality." I opened the door at 5:00 a.m. and saw the clear sky and the Full Moon halfway between the zenith and the western horizon, surrounded by a spangle of moonlit cloudlets that looked like distant Chinese mountains. "Holy Celestial Kingdom, I've got to get going!"
Walking on Glade, I was so excited with anticipation that I was almost hyperventilating. I tried to calm myself without much success. When I reached the trail, I worried that with the Moon approaching the horizon the Grove might not be the best vantage point, so I sat down next to the first suitably situated tree and began my gaze. Soon my wide eyes and jaw were so slack that a good gust of wind could have carried them away. Fortunately absolute calm prevailed.
There is no need to describe her myriad transformations for they are infinite in number and subject to individual projective predilections, but seeing her as a jack-o'-lantern many-eyed diamond was very nice. But the magic really begins when she oozes behind a small trunk. The concentration becomes even more intense, the light brightens, a funnel-like penumbra forms around her, and the richest, darkest Black Light streams out vertically, above and below, the whole looking like a negative photograph of the representation of a "Black Hole." Bam!—Disbelief suspended—the transcendent appears. After twenty minutes or so of this, I was temporarily "wasted". I got up and stumbled drunkenly towards the Grove where I thought I might catch moonset. I sat down on a stump at the entrance to the Grove and rested for a few minutes as the Moon moved closer to the horizon. There are epiphanies and disappearances (is there a Greek word for that?) and in the case of the Moon, her disappearance may be her greatest act. Words might be inadequate but in any case I don't have them except to say that as she shrank more and more until she became a line of light, I lost all consciousness of where I was in relation to her. Finally she must have been in me somehow for the distance separating us seemed to have totally vanished and then as she oozed away, a beautiful darkness took hold in front of me, the trees about seemed to form into some kind of architectural regularity, and "displaced" light surrounded me peripherally and from behind. A mountaintop may be the best scientific observatory, but for me, the Sacred Grove is the most poetic.
Plato’s Half Dome—11/27/04
I know. I'm becoming like the little boy who cried "Wolf", or was it "Moon"? Shirley now rolls her eyes and chuckles whenever I say: “That’s the last adventure I write up." But bear with me at least one more time for today the Goddess showed me some new tricks—how she, with the help of Mother's atmospheric direction, can mythopoeically transform an entire forestscape without the need for any trancefying on the part of the observer.
The forecast was for clear sky in the morning with clouds then rolling in. Instead, I got the best possible mix of both scenarios. Stepping outside a little before 5:00 a.m., I saw more cirrus clouds in the sky than yesterday and when the Moon passed among them, she was encircled by a prismatic halo, a sight the equal of yesterday's Celestial Kingdom entourage. Nevertheless, I walked on Glade in a more relaxed spirit, believing that "nothing could top yesterday's experience."
A few minutes into the walk, I started hand jiving and then noticed the shadow I was casting by moonlight. It looked much better than the sun's version, as if a choreographer had dressed me in a deep black costume while placing me against a softly glowing light source. "This is the way I would like these movements to be depicted," I thought, and as I approached the turn off to the trail, I thought about staying on Glade and enjoying the shadow dance. But a voice whispered to me: "Remember Narcissus. Go to the woods."
And so I did, by-passing the tree I had first rested on yesterday because the Moon was higher in the sky, and proceeded directly to the Grove where I lay my head on a fallen trunk at its entrance. My rule, which I try to keep, is that once I assume a position, I am not to move, except for slight head and eye turns, for what seems to be about twenty minutes or so. The Moon was hiding behind branches and clumps of still hanging dead foliage, giving off flickers and small oozings when the gray/brown light seemed to spread throughout the whole scene in front of me, becoming the most beautiful giant tapestry imaginable. What I didn't know, until a few minutes later, was that a large bank of thin clouds was beginning to rise behind the trees and was softening and spreading the moonlight. Soon it became clear as a glowing white cloud bank with a distinct, almost straight, leading edge.
It now looked like I was under nature's Big Top, the actual top of which was the still unclouded dark starry vault itself, which at first I didn't recognize because its contrast with the clouds somehow so felicitously confused me—white cloud canvas with a dark starry top, a Trompe l'Oeil effect for the ages, or my ages, at least. This was great but Mother and the Goddess were not yet finished. As the clouds rose higher, I seemed to be looking up at a towering cliff and realized that it bore an uncanny resemblance to Yosemite’s famous "Half Dome," which I have only seen in photographs and film. So strong was the similarity that I wanted to believe that others could have seen it too. I may never get to Half Dome, but I now have seen its spectrally shining twin, which I imagined as Half Dome's better half—its Platonic Form. Or was it something like Dogen’s zen-puzzling “Blue Mountains constantly walking?” But whatever the comparison, of all the things I have seen in my life, “Half Dome” ranks way up there! Then the clouds covered the scene, making the whole into one big canvas-vaulted structure. All this happened because the clouds merged with and mimicked the angles of the backlit trees, and thus they seemed to rise more sharply than if I had been viewing them in a more open area. But everything was huge for it was still the sky after all. Then things quieted down and enough time having elapsed, I decided to move down the log for a different view. Here I saw the Moon glow through numerous pinholes, which put me into my first real trance of the morning and brought forth the Pantheon, or perhaps the Hagia Sophia, for my viewing enjoyment. Then I relaxed, rolling my head back farther on the log, and looked into the sky, while also looking down peripherally on the Moon, which was now appearing as a softly glowing furnace.
Just as I was thinking how interesting it was to look at it this way, the upturned part of me saw my second Sacred Grove "Shooting Star." This was my signal to turn my attention to Venus, Jupiter, and the stars whom I had so completely ignored for two days. Holly oozed me a star so I knew everything would be all right.
“I Can’t Stop Loving You”—11/29/04
I'm just back from another lunar ravishment. I'm totally in the Goddess' thrall now. Today's dramas were played on a smaller stage than those of two days ago, but, in their own way, they were equally as good. Before going to bed, I anxiously checked the Weather Channel's forecast and was glad to hear that the morning would be clear, but when I looked out the door at 4:30 a.m. I saw a largely overcast sky, albeit with high thin clouds that allowed the Moon to shine to various degrees. I was not discouraged because I have learned that if the Moon is at all visible, she can still work her arboreal magic.
In the Grove, I lay my head on Arbolita's westerly facing side and looked at the nearly Full Moon, which was about forty-five degrees above my horizon. We were separated by small growth in the foreground, branches and trunks in the middle ground, and then by the adagio moving clouds. The more that is interposed the better for they increase the transformations and enrich the "music." Since the clouds were already fully up, there could be no return of the Big Top. Instead, I watched as the grayscale clouds veiled and unveiled her. It was as if I were watching a beautiful, beguiling woman who was changing in and out of various outfits saying: "How do you like this one, Dennis?" ("I like them all, Baby, I like them all!") Under these conditions, the clouds take on a much more stately quality than usual and all—clouds, trees, Moon, and me—work together like members of the Budapest String Quartet. Rarely did she come out completely from behind the clouds, but once she suddenly went full bright and started blowing up in my vision as if she were a glowing asteroid headed straight for my brain. Bam—Deep Impact! Several minutes later she fell into the embrace of two twigs and was framed on all four sides by branches. As I looked into this picture, it became its own miniature forestscape with the Moon becoming a giant Harvest Moon like the one my sister recalled having seen engulfing downtown Denver as she drove towards the city on Rt. 6.
Then, because the clouds were slowly moving, I seemed to descry a river running through it and I was riding that river towards the Moon. In its reality for me, this miniature rivaled the big “Half Dome” of two days ago. Other things came and went and as the light was beginning to increase, I raised my right arm to the Moon and as I did so I noticed a new cloudbank ascending the trees. Hand and clouds felt connected and they started moving together. When both reached the zenith, I got up and walked through the path, periodically compelled to turn around and salute the Goddess.
As the sky began to pink and orange, I went pell-mell for Mt. Reston. Have you ever seen the real gold of morning? Then someday when you're back in the neighborhood, hang with me over its hill and see the light between the closely packed trees at the top of the ridge.
The Egg of Creation and Blackening Sun—11/30/04
I think I should probably limit my lunar adventures to four per cycle. I have a tendency to overdo things, as you know. Today I learned something about a motif in creation mythology and that I can stare for several minutes at the nearly full, unobstructed Moon and not go blind, or so I hope.
Arriving at the Grove at a little after 5:00 a.m., I lay down on the reclining path behind and to the right of Arbolita because the Moon was now about sixty degrees above my horizon. When walking on Glade, she was partially obscured by medium thick clouds, but by the time I lay down, they had become thinner. She rested among leafless upper branches of a tree, looking better than any Chinese or Japanese painting you can imagine.
As I continued my gaze, a wide, pink prismatic halo formed around her, which began to turn a light russet color with texture. The color and texture seized my attention and I realized that it now looked like a wonderful Robin's nest with the most beautiful shining egg in the universe right at its center—the Egg of Creation, of course!
And so it remained for several minutes until the clouds dissipated and, for the first time since I began moon gazing in the grove, I was now looking at the light of an unobstructed, nearly Full Moon. "How much candle power does she put out?" I thought as I struggled to keep my eyes on her. I urged her to move down a bit, which was her natural inclination anyway, so that she could pass behind a branch. She did but it hardly diminished her luster. After a while, I realized I was tiring of my attempt to control her from this vantage point so I rolled over about two feet closer to Arbolita. Here she was wedged between two branches and was pressed into an ovoid shape. I seemed better able to withstand her glare in this position and continued to look.
Suddenly everything began to grow pitch dark around her as she became a brilliant sun in the middle of black nothingness—a shockingly beautiful dimensionless void and a trance makyo mystical vision to beat all previous ones. This lasted for several minutes until I thought I heard someone approach and then I lost it.
Now one might say that staring at a candle or a white computer screen in a darkened room could produce much the same thing. But, in fact, they wouldn't be one scintilla as grand, glorious, and awesome as this Blackening Sun. They could not hold a wick to it. Compare it only to a Total Solar Eclipse witnessed by you alone!
Mt. Reston Lake Audubon
Pink clouds string section trees Gray clouds rising like
baby blue sky smoke above the bank
upside down Phaedo world sky moon yellow green grass
Maybe Five Times Per Cycle Is Okay Too—12/2/04
All ye shackled to drugs and stimulants and seekers after buzzes and altered states, take yourselves instead to the spirit-haunted woods on a moonlit morning and lie down in the duff—no need to puff, nor snort, nor line, nor pop—just look. Today with the Three-Quarter Moon at the zenith, resting near the entrance or on Arbolita was not an option. The Moon is a pure visual sound source, but she needs some instruments to make her best music and there were none to be had in those locations. So I betook myself to the Bench and lay down under embowering Holly. Since early October, she had not done the Moon for me, so I wasn’t sure how Luna might react to Holly's tightly fretted instrument, but I had little doubt that some good would come of it.
Again, it's difficult and probably unnecessary to describe all the protean transformations these two can undergo in concert. Perhaps the best was at one point when the Moon had darkened all around her and seemed to be perched atop a shining black tower like a high psychedelic beacon. Holly is only ten to fifteen feet above my head, so when the Moon inhabits that space, she seems to be right next to me almost. This is the mystery of here and there in extremis. As I was marveling at her closeness, I seemed to see some mist or vapor rising towards her. Since it had been perfectly clear, I wondered where it had come from until I noticed that in the freezing temperature my breath was condensing— another magical Trompe l'Oeil effect, for instead of the ordinary condensed breath of a winter morning, I was now seeing my breath as incense or a burnt offering being sent straight to the Moon. I wanted to stay longer but, although I had two layers of jacket on me, my legs, feet, and arms were becoming cold and I was shivering.
I got up and tried to warm myself but soon realized that the only way was to begin walking, and it was about that time anyway. Rounding a corner on the paved path, I came upon the Beaver Pond and its many tall dead trees. In the predawn light their geometries looked better than I had ever seen them before and then I noticed a curvaceous living tree in the foreground. As I looked, it began to sinuate in my visual field like an undulating dancer in a Rap Video or a GoGo girl in Mai. I blinked and turned my head because I couldn't believe my eyes, but she still kept on doing it. Now here's proof positive to me that arboreal night sky gazing can have a transference effect. All the lunar, venutian, and stellar oozings, squirmings, and poppings somehow affected how I was seeing this tree on this morning. I can't guarantee it will happen again, but it was unbelievable while it lasted.
Six Is Only Four Plus Two—12/03/04
I tried to insulate myself a little better than yesterday, but I don't have the right gear. The cold is the limiting factor on how long I can stay motionless in the moonlight. Maybe I should learn some Tibetan heat conservation techniques.
As I walked the path, I was looking at the Half Moon at the zenith when I saw to its right and a little "in front" of it seven stars taking up half the western sky that described an almost perfect parabolic arch going from near the horizon to the apex to horizon again. I wondered why I hadn't noticed them before. Were some dead leaves or branches obscuring several of the stars before? In any case, had I discovered a new, beautiful, and maybe the biggest constellation ever—the Constellation of Hadrian, St. Louis, or, Heavens forbid, the Constellation of the Famous Fast Food Franchise? Unfortunately, I had to conclude that this monster would be visible only in places where the ambient light washed out most of the other stars in the region. Here in Reston, only those seven stars were visible there, except for a few in the middle. (I later discovered that Saturn and the Gemini Twins, Castor and Pollux form the apex of The Great Celestial Arch, which makes it a once-in-a lifetime event, requiring the presence of a planet and the necessary orientation to earth and observer for optimal perception as an arch.)
I knew that the Bench under Holly would again be my spot. In my usual southward facing position I couldn't see the Moon, so for the first time I turned around and faced north where parts of her were oozing between the leaves. From the first time I sat down on that bench in May, I knew that the hollies were the genii loci of this Sacred Grove and were what had drawn me there. Remembering what I had observed yesterday before the cold forced me to leave, I began exhaling my offerings to the Goddess, which reminded me of the first cigarette I had smoked as a kid, and then, before I knew it some of the "smoke" took the form of "smoke rings" or halos that encircled the Moon on this windless morning. The Moon herself hollows out the breath with her light just as she does small, thin clouds. These, however, were not prismatic halos for this was only a Trompe l'Oeil after all. But trompe, makyo, or mystification, call it what you will, it is for me one of the best ways to say thanks, and besides it is a most ghostly and beautiful sight. Being the Christmas Season, I also thought of George Bailey lassoing the Moon for Mary in It's a Wonderful Life.
Staring or trancing out on the Moon among hollies seems to progress in four phases for me—first the leaves form into flat patterns that look like some kind of M.C. Escher repeating figure drawing. Then the space around and between the leaves begins to darken and the combination, surprisingly or maybe unsurprisingly, appears like the surface of the Moon with the highlights as mountains and the dark spaces as craters. I had seen this before but only today did I make the lunar connection. Next a ring of darkness opens around her and this then becomes a perfect place to send the breath for it seems to shine even more spectrally against this partial black background. Finally everything goes black and the Moon is left alone in the void.
I departed the Grove several minutes earlier than usual because of the cold, so when I arrived at the Beaver Pond, the GoGo Tree was more subdued than yesterday, but still in subtle motion. As I hung over Mt. Reston, the big trees right around me seemed more solid and suchly than ever and then I also noticed the Moon at the top of the ridge, although I had to bury my chin in my neck to do so. This was not the mysterious moon of night or the enlightenment moon of thirty minutes before sunrise but the moon of early dawn, not as beautiful as the first two but still the moon, and I realized that this also might be a good and inverting place to observe her, especially when the leaves return. But I'll have to be even more careful because of the terrain and because debris in the area tells me that sometimes nightly carouses are held here.
From Lake Audubon to home, I tried to keep the Moon in constant view "as we strolled along together . . . so in love" in the words of my all-time favorite Doo-Wop song.
The Music of Leaves and Spheres—12/4/04
Today I followed Holly and the Moon
to another world
never has a light in the woods
seemed so divine to me
It was cold
but I was warm throughout
almost to the end
Voices of Variance and Invariance—12/5/04
Do you not see the criss-crossing comets?
Right yourself—only some bright dawn contrails on the horizon beyond.
Do you not see the lone water bug bobbing above the ocean below?
Get a grip—only a turned-down spider dangling on its dock-anchored wire.
But earlier in the woods did you not behold the Half Moon's double Half Halo, pink color and all?
Now you have really gone too far and are delusional as well, for the laws of optics and symmetry proclaim that the Halo must always be whole.
Yes, that would rend the fabric of physics, I readily concede, so just grant me some freedom for some space/time of play and we’ll end this argument and be on our good way.