Returning home one moonlit night last winter, I stopped to look at the little creek running through the front of my garden. I often stood on the bridge that crossed the creek loving the rough little pathway curving about the tree roots of the willows lining its banks. I thought I knew its every facet, but this night my heart was transfixed by the vision of the exquisite silver ribbon woven by the little band of winter water slipping over the stones.
The night was deep and rich, blue-black with a slight dusty overlay from the moonlight. The trees and branches lining the creek were a soft, dull grey-blue, rising up like great bouquets against an ancient and carefully crafted wall, the mysterious stone wall of the night. Through this harmony of darkness ran the busy little current, curving in and out and about but always moving forward, singing and whispering and telling stories to itself.
Precious and pure, a shining rippling ribbon, it flowed on endlessly below the bridge where I stood as earthbound as the trees, as unable to follow the water as they in their rootedness. I stood in the cold night and stared at its self-contained purposefulness, pushing my eyes to see deeper into its characteristics so that somehow they would become my own, to no avail. My eyes burned, my hands and face ached from the cold, and the creek ran along unmoved by my longing for its wildness. It could only show me a way to move through the night alone, confident and unafraid.
My aching eyes etched its essence into my spirit so precisely I can still see it running, sparkling moonlight-white, wholeheartedly on its way to its final destination, neither knowing nor caring where its journey might end. It was pure process I ached to flow within. Standing in the moon ruled night, in the presence of this endless and indefinable moving forward beneath my feet and before my eyes, I reached out my arms and my heart toward it. “See me, Love me as I Love you.”
It was its boundless Beauty, and my strong sense of its ability to flow effortlessly through any net, that my heart loved beyond description with a depth of desire I had never known before. I was filled with a great Joy at having been shown its existence and a simultaneous Grief at its inevitable otherness from my longing heart. The Grief was utterly and totally woven into the Joy. Both slipped into my spirit as surely as the cold penetrated my skin. And over all lay the soft murmuring of its story, its communications with the stones and the roots and hollows it encountered as it journeyed on.
If the creek had answered me, if it had stopped running and reached back to me, even for a moment, to say, “I know you are there,” something essential would have been altered beyond repair. I longed for the unattainable, the Creek’s Way of Being, and even in the midst of my Grief at our separateness, just a glimpse of it as it passed by, made an indelible, Joyful imprint upon my spirit.
My second such moonlight revelation came this winter. Very late one night, I looked out my bedroom window and saw the tree-covered ridge of the hills one-half mile away drifting in and out of a shimmering mist. I went out into the garden, to the center of the open grassy area beneath the oak trees on the hillside rising up just behind my house. The air directly above me, completely open to the sky, was a clear blue-silver, washed uniformly smooth by the full moon’s unobstructed power. Further away the air was diaphanously painted, floating over the trees on the ridge like transparent shadows. It was their shifting beauty that called me into the open air to gaze upon them more freely. But the sight that once more shot into my heart like an arrow, was the perfect circle of the full moon moving through the silver-blue night sky behind the intricate web of branches of the old oak trees on my hillside.
My house rests in a little valley completely protected from all sounds of civilization by its wooded hills. The night was utterly silent, its domain totally governed by the moonlight. As when I stood on the bridge above the little creek on an earlier winter night, I was gripped by a Longing to Be this majesty spread out before my eyes and simultaneously acutely aware that this was impossible. I was neither the moon nor the sky, nor the oak tree branches, nor the mist. Running through me, just as surely as my blood, was the knowledge that I was observing transitory phenomena. This moment’s moon was not the moon of the next particle of time hard on its heels. Nevertheless, a magnificent Beauty, a seamless chain of moments always moving on and yet paradoxically always “there,” could be experienced, flowing endlessly through Time Passing like the little moonlit creek of an earlier winter night.
Blessed by the moon in its net of tree branches, I threw another kind of net made of tiny atoms of my Longing out into the night sky. Not to catch the moon or the mist or the beauty moving before my eager eyes, but to lodge my Longing in the night above my garden as firmly as the web of stars. So that as long as I am privileged to live within this specific space on earth that I am now blessed to call Home, I and those whom I love who spend time here, will be protected by its shield from Life only lightly and carelessly lived.
Standing within the immense silence of the garden, stricken by the impossibility of “being” the moon or the mist or the stars, I felt a feathery sensation on my ankles. Deborah, my wildest cat who lives almost totally outside, who does not seek refuge in the house even in the fiercest of winter rains and winds, had come to stand beside me in the night. I took her in my arms, soft and sweet smelling and vibrating with deep purrs against my cheek and heart. She knew nothing of Longing. She knew only my warmth and scent and love and asked for nothing more. Once again, a teacher came in the night, this time to show me how to rest, at peace, in the sensations passing through me. I held the present moment in my arms. It flashed up like a burning paper and was gone. But in the light of its burning, I saw the source of the Joy in my Longing and the depth of Deborah’s gift.
That night can never come again. One day Deborah will not come again. One day I also will not come again to stand in any garden on any moonlit night. But then, perhaps, we both will have been absorbed into the great Process that rules the night’s majesty and the beauty of the whispering water of the creek, and Joyfully will have been welcomed Home.
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