Introduction – Oozing the Moon: A Sky and Night Woods
GUIDE TO THE GALAXY – DENNIS ROTH c2004
“Everything is not as it seems, nor is it otherwise.”—The Buddha
I retired from the U.S. Federal Government in January 2004 and began to spend much more time in the woods, paths, and lakes of my hometown, Reston, Virginia, which have been a source of inspiration and enjoyment for me since my wife and I moved here in 1978.
Reston is a suburb of Washington, D.C. located about eight miles east of the Dulles Airport. When it was established in 1964, large areas of land were permanently set aside for paths and natural areas, and several artificial lakes were created. Before coming to Reston, I had not had much contact with nature and had never been (and am still not) a camper or backcountry hiker. But I had always liked to walk, and in Reston I found paths, both paved and unpaved, near my house that took me through and by many acres of attractive, well-wooded areas. Had we moved to another suburb of D.C. that did not have these natural amenities (and almost all do not), my life would have developed differently and, I believe, not as fully.
These areas truly helped to open my eyes, and so on a glorious August morning in 1982, I began to see the world in a new way. In the mid-1980s I wrote a manuscript entitled Rhythm Vision: A Guide to Visual Awareness, which was published by a small press in 1990. Its contents can now be read at www.rhythmvision.com.
The 1990s were not a good decade for me, and the events of September 11, 2001 further dampened my spirits. In late November of that year, I was sitting on a log in Reston’s Twin Branches Nature Trail area when, for some reason, I decided to bridge over the log and hang my back and neck over it as I might have done were I a child. As I looked up at the pale sunset sky, it seemed I was actually looking down on a great “cosmic” ocean. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but with this simple act I was suddenly out of my decade-long semi-funk. The next day I hung over the bank of the nearby Glade Stream and was transported by the “Inverted Mirror World,” as I immediately dubbed it, and the deliciously disorienting state (I call it “proprioceptive ambiguity”) that it induced in me. For the next year, I walked through this area as much as I could and took many inverted photographs, and then in 2003 I started hanging over a public dock at Lake Audubon, while trying to be careful not to make too much of a spectacle of myself.
When I retired, I was primed to continue my explorations on a full-time basis. I had been communicating with my good friend, Bill Stark, by email and so, with his knowledge, I decided to use our connection as a way of keeping an electronic journal. For the first nine months, I was involved primarily in further investigating the inverted perspective, ways of musical walking, and perception while sitting on a bench in a relatively secluded area I called the “Sacred Grove,” or just “Grove” for short. This last activity took place at all times of the day, but I spent most of my time there between 5:00 and 6:30 a.m. in the morning.
As the days grew shorter, I found myself one early October morning lying on the bench and looking up to the moon moving among the holly and oak leaves. For many years I had been fascinated by light, but what I was seeing now as the moon slowly, so slowly oozed, edged, squeezed, and disappeared, almost photon by photon, only to be quickly rescued from permanent extinction by either my movement or hers, was the most entrancing and self-extinguishing sight I had ever beheld. Thus, arboreal night sky gazing became another focus of my woodland activities—“arboreal” because I had discovered that by positioning trunks, branches, and especially leaves (mostly evergreen holly after October) between the moon, stars, and planets, and me, I was able to hear a kind of Music of the Spheres and witness transformations and scenes that went beyond anything I had previously experienced.
Astronomers call the passing of one celestial body over another an “occultation.” Those described here are also occultations, although, unlike the former, they provide no scientific information, only sensory and imaginative stimulation.
A few weeks later I discovered something equally amazing to me. I found that if I stared or tranced out on an oozing celestial orb or just stared intently on a small space or object, a reversal of space and matter would take place. Tree trunks would blacken and the spaces between them would to seem to lighten into what appeared to be trees themselves —a Space Forest—or holly leaves would blacken and the spaces between them would appear to be leaves (later also flowers)—Space Leaf (or Flower) Spangled Black Sky. Both had a spectral beauty and reality that I could hardly believe and they stuck around for several minutes even when my vision was completely relaxed. Surely this was some kind of long-lasting trance phenomenon, I knew, but with a verisimilitude that made them almost “real,” so almost real that they still seem strange and new whenever they arise.