It was another great morning in Reston. The weather was beautiful and the sky clear. When I went out nearly an hour before dawn, the sky was partly cloudy with a three-quarter moon near the zenith. The moon lighted the path to the Grove so I didn't need to use my flashlight at all. It is always with a feeling of relaxation and joy when I take my seat on the bench. I really am beginning to anticipate and love the quiet and isolation of its near darkness. I almost automatically begin doing the Owl Oscillation and then switch to the biggest tingle-producer I have yet come across. I call it "The Flowering of Mind Mudra.” Going from just below the belt to the top of the head, the right hand traces a clockwise ellipse while the left goes counter-clockwise. As the hands go up the chest, they are parallel and then at the neck they begin to diverge like a stem widening into a flower. I do this while walking as well and am very pleasantly stimulated. Then I stopped moving and just sat and suddenly I felt a strong light on me, almost as if a police helicopter were beaming down on me. It was so surprising that I was startled and sore afraid. The thought quickly raced through my mind that I was either in danger or the beholder of some kind of alien illumination. Then I looked up and realized that the Moon had moved into an opening in the leaves and was then right above me. I don't think clouds had covered it at the time, because I had been admiring the patches of lunar light around me. Such is the power of the Moon when it encounters a semi-entranced Druid under the right conditions.
A few days later I noticed something else that might help explain this experience. I was looking at the Moon in the leaves and was aware how they seemed to have darkened while peripheral areas behind and to the side of my head seemed to have lightened up. Perhaps the trance displaces and compresses the ambient light, which then can be suddenly released.
I haven't experienced such lunar absorption since I was two and a half years old and knocking down furniture barricading my room so that I could go outside at 2:00 a.m. to bay "Moon, Moon, Moon," until I was caged in my crib with no exit, unable to disturb my mother, who was pregnant with my brother at the time. I don't remember any of this but was told about it by my mother, whose predicament I can fully understand. I just wish there had been a less traumatic solution available. (I say "traumatic" but I'm just guessing.)
When I stepped outside this morning, the air was clear and crisp and a Half Moon was almost right above me. I realized it would be interesting in the Grove when I saw dappled moonlight painting patches on the tree-covered sidewalk on the way to the woods. The Grove shone and seemed to be even a little brighter than two mornings ago. I did my Owl Oscillations and Flowering Mind Mudra, this time being more aware of the afterimage/moving air (whatever it is) flowering form. Then I lay down on the bench and saw a little sparkle of moon glow through the tightly packed foliage. I maneuvered my head so that the sparkles coalesced into a large pinpoint of light like Venus. Seeing it as a little oculus like that atop some domed buildings, I focused on it, trying to keep it steady for a while, despite the Moon's progress above the leaves. As I did so, the surroundings lit up, not with supernovae but with light gray panel-like structures that reminded me quite specifically of a PBS TV program ("Building Big") on domed buildings. I was inside the Pantheon! I have never been to Rome so if I hadn't watched that program I would not have made that connection, although I still might have imagined a domed, paneled building. As I played with the light, the dome came in and out of awareness, but eventually as the light increased that was more difficult to do so I tried instead to listen to the "music" of the shapes, particles, and lines of moonlight. While I remained on the bench, the Moon never fully appeared but was always a moving kaleidoscope of forms and shapes. I lost track of myself but "came to" when the light grew brighter, which was my signal to rise and walk on.
Another morning of sheer lunacy. I am discovering that lying on my back while the Moon oozes among the leaves is my best out-of-mind-and-body experience. It was like yesterday, except much colder. In fact, almost freezing at 6:00 a.m., so I wore a jacket, knowing I would be laid out on a bench in the woods. I have been reading Robert Aitken's A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku and Zen and yesterday finished his chapter "The Cricket" in which he says that things like dreaminess and makyo should not be automatically denigrated because the "fact is that realization may be prompted by a dreamy condition, or by a thought or by makyo (uncanny vision)." That struck a chord with me because I seem to specialize in dreaminess, thoughts, and makyo. As usual, after the Owl Oscillations I went into the Flowering Mind Mudra looking, again as usual, down the portal of the path into the Grove and back into the two trees where I see my light-and-shadow "apparitions." That area was completely dark as I began my Flowering of Mind ellipses but soon it began to take on a glowing crimson color with suggestions of something about to appear and then falling back into total darkness when I stopped. Definitely makyo but also interesting and inspiring so I choose not to dismiss it. (Later, when the light was stronger I found that while doing just one cycle the area in focus brightens up ever so slightly and briefly, so I think this is something perceptual psychologists could or already have explained.) Lying down on the bench, I saw that the Moon was in a slightly different position from yesterday and that I would see a little more of it.
Concentrating on the Moon's movements quickly induces a trance state that affects perception of the surroundings. Today I became especially fascinated to watch as a moon slice gradually oozed its light behind foliage, trying to slow time down to watch every small bit disappear until the last photons dropped into the Black Hole, only to suddenly reappear upon a slight inadvertent head or eye movement. I could have played this and similar games for hours. Then as the trance took hold, I saw the leaves and gray light become a flat pattern that looked like a dark abstract Persian rug hanging above me as a canopy over my bench. Different but just as awe-inspiring and makyovelian as yesterday's imagined Pantheon. I muttered "Moon, Moon, Moon.”
Tick Tock Ticket to Tada Land?—10/13/04
You remember my telling you about feeling and hearing the “Tick Tock” as I looked into the predawn foliage and moving my head so the lights would pop out and then taking Tick Tock on the road. I've got a little metrognome (kind of like a homunculus) in my head. Several weeks ago I was meditating and hearing the Tick Tock. I wasn't sure whether it was going with the heartbeat but I later verified that it probably was. Right now, if I tune in, the Tick Tock is singing over the heart. In recent weeks I've been having problems getting back to sleep, but meditation usually works after fifteen or twenty minutes. Last night I started doing the Tick Tock meditation, but was dissatisfied with its synchrony with the heart. "The heart is running this show, but what if I want to slow it down, etc?" So I started to consciously Tick Tock more slowly, while trying to keep it on a nice even keel. Some times it would merge with the heartbeat and then I would have to re-establish my mind Tick Tock. I didn't have the heart to give me the back beat so I asked my metrognome for help. Eventually it got to the point where my mind Tick Tock seemed to become automatic too. Eventually I went to sleep. When I got to the Grove this morning, instead of Owl Oscillating, I started to Tick Tock, doing it slowly so I could override my more rapidly beating heart which had been pumped up by my walk. Soon the slow Tick Tock took over in my consciousness and I really zoned out.
Form and Formlessness—10/23/04
The sky was clear, the air crisp, and the colors blazing. It's really dark now on the path to the Grove. I don't want to use my flashlight if possible so I walk slowly and hunch down to have a low center of gravity just in case I trip over something. The little path that leads to the Bench is especially dark. Yesterday I almost bumped into a tree and when I stepped back from it, I was intrigued by how strange and beautiful it was. From two feet away I could barely make it out and then only the center portion of the twenty-inch diameter trunk. The rest merged with the darkness. Today I experienced the same thing but this time I also looked down to the base of the tree, which totally disappeared. However, I knew it was there yet I still seemed to be seeing a continuous field of forest duff and leaves (they show up better than a dark trunk). It was like x-ray vision. This excited and puzzled me at the same time. Naturally, I looked for a phenomenological explanation. It appeared that the almost imperceptible light on the bark created forms that melded with the duff. So I had the explanation but, as usual, it didn't damage the Dada. The mystery remains intact. What was great was to slowly move my eyes from the formless base to the partially formed eye-level part of the trunk and then gradually up to the top one hundred feet of the even more appearing tree. Form and Formlessness—Formlessness and Form. This is worth exploring for many moons maybe.
Low Light Character—10/24/04
I will describe my new relationship with this tree, whom I call “Arbolita,” in an imaginary conversation with my wife: Shirley—I've got something to get off my chest. I've been arboring a dark leafy secret. You know I have a hard time lying so here goes. I'm in love with another. The last two days I have been going to my Sacred Grove and standing in front of a tall dark tree. I look her up and down and then try to see right through her. I watch lovingly as she merges and emerges from the enveloping darkness. Today I looked out the window at 5:00 a.m. and noticed it was raining. But it wasn't pouring and besides I had a rendezvous to keep so off I went at 6:05 a.m. The overcast sky made my way easier than usual because the clouds reflected back the ambient suburban light. When I reached her, I was surprised I could see a little more of her but she still shone out in the mysterious darkness of her being. I approached closer. The earth did not move but the entranced air began to quiver like a quantum fluctuation. I reveled in that for a while and then as my eyes adapted, my little universe quieted down and so we were left alone together. I looked at the patterns of her bark and seemed to discern a face. Moving closer and not hearing any "You're barking up the wrong tree, Buster," I leaned over and planted a kiss on her striations. I couldn't help it. “The Force” made me do it. I pulled back and looked at her dark form adoringly and muttered, "But I don't even know your species!" And that's all that happened, honestly. But you're laughing. You mean you're not angry? You mean you'll even share me with Arbolita? Whoopee, we can have a MÈnage a Tree!
Mi Bonita Arbolita—10/25/04
She is my flavor of the month. I say month because when all the leaves drop it might alter the light environment in the woods so that I can't see Arbolita in her beautiful demi-monde anymore. In the background there are backyard security lights, which right now seem to help but with all the leaves off I'm not sure what will happen. So I'll roll in the hay while I can. It sure is an entrancing experience, though. This morning I stood raptly quiet for ten concentrated minutes. At first I scanned her up and down and gave her a little peck, but then I concentrated solely on her nether regions, which, of course, merged with the darkness and the forest duff. I would reach out my hand "expecting" it to pass through air and would be tingleaciously "surprised" when it felt the resistance of her "flesh." This is my own little private Creation Myth— out of emptiness, darkness, and the void, the World of Maya arises. After about fifteen minutes, it no longer is possible to sustain the illusion because of light's increase and then she and her striations (she's a Tulip Poplar) come more clearly into view.
Being Played for a Sap—10/26/04
Intending to heat things up again with SeÒorita Arbolita, I got to the Grove at the same time but the light was a little different, perhaps brighter. She was clearer and had seemingly lost a bit of her mysterious allure. "Are you playing me for a sap?" was my thought. But then I calmed down and realized it was just a little bump in our relationship. "We can work through this, Baby." So I looked down at her and with a little concentrating, she once again vanished into the void, but she was fickle and kept bouncing in and out of existence. So then I realized that today was just her day to stand forth, so I looked deeply into her midsection and then it seemed to disappear also and it was as if I were looking right through her to the little path leading to the Bench. This was really nice because the "illusion" was so good. Didn't Hegel say in The Phenomenology something like "At midnight all cows are black," by which I mean that in that low-light situation bark merges with duff and vice versa.
The Golden Buddha—10/27/04
After leaving the Grove this morning, I didn't think I would be writing anything today. For some reason—the Full Moon near moonset or maybe my growing visual acclimation to the darkness—Arbolita seemed clearer today; and even with some work, I could make only part of her lower regions melt back into void. Trying to "see through" her to the path behind was even more difficult. After a couple minutes on the Bench, I got up and stood in front of another tree. I could see it pretty well, but I played around with the light adjusting visual (“quantum”) vibrations and then did some slit-scanning to bring out the "colors." All very nice, but I would have traded them in a slit-scanned second for a full-bodied romp with Arbolita. The first part of the walk on the path was enjoyable on this overcast morning, but not extravagantly so. Then I walked on the path next to a main street—on one side is another bank of Lake Audubon and on the other the entrance to some woods. Yesterday, I took a picture of that area, which presents a slightly curving facade to the walker. After a few minutes there, I noticed the gray sky was breaking up and the light (it must have been just at sunrise) was illuminating some little white clouds. I stopped and then saw how it was also bringing out the soft yellow in the trees in the front of the woods. It was a beautiful light, perhaps the best autumnal experience I have ever had, for in the middle was a large humanoid-shaped tree that was glowing and I said: "This looks like a Great Golden Buddha!" (I first learned of a Golden Buddha when I went to the Philippines in September of 1971. The scandal then was that President Marcos had stolen, with the help of the constabulary, a real Golden Buddha that had been discovered in Northern Luzon by a Filipino treasure hunter.)
Duffer in the Duff—10/29/04
The Sacred Grove is an all-purpose Trip-out Zone. This morning, the day after the Blood Moon Eclipse, I walked to the Grove, noticing that it was still fairly light for 6:00 a.m., even though the sky was completely overcast. No wonder commandos avoid full-moon operations. And when I got to Arbolita, I again noticed that she was playing coy—pretending to be too bright so I couldn't see (or actually not see) her lower regions the way I like them. I concluded that this is probably the way it's going to be until next summer, because when all the leaves drop there is going to be even more light on her. She's just a Summer Fling, I guess. The Grove is special because it is double canopied, with shorter Holly Trees in the lower story and Oaks and Tulip Poplars in the upper. That creates more shadows, contrasts, and “scrim” dimensions. As I was becoming resigned to Arbolita leaving me for a while, I looked to the right and noticed some trees and treelets on the margins of the Grove, and even though it was more than an hour and a half before sunrise, I was seeing the "dimensions."
Since standing in one place for too long can give me a little twinge in the knee, I sat down, and that's how the Duffer got Down in the Duff. From that meditative posture, I could admire them pain-free. They are caused by slight changes in light values coming from the backyard lights combining with the linear architecture of the trees to create ethereal, ineffable, architectonic light space. However, this too may change when all the leaves come off. Actually, what I am doing is playing with imaginary space planes and light values. Even in the full light of day, it is interesting to do this—look at two trees and see the space plane connecting them and then add others, etc.
Now when I say commodious contemplation I refer not to a large meditation hall but to the most important room in a house. Now you've got it—the site of my latest meditation adventure! Thanks to Arbolita and the Sacred Grove. They prepared me for this. Stillness, Darkness, and Silence have been my watchwords recently. In order to develop my film negatives, I go to one of the bathrooms and drape a dark blue sheet (we don't have a black one) over the door and shut it. That cuts out almost all the light so that I can roll my exposed film onto the developing cylinder. Last year I would occasionally go into the bathroom and meditate on the floor because I liked the darkness and quiet. I was motivated to do so again after recently rolling some more exposed film. In this bathroom, one enters and is immediately faced with the sink and mirror above it and then to the right is the business end. Normally I would sit in front of the commode because that was the farthest point from the door and any small amount of light. But today I decided to sit against the door so I could put my legs out. Since the sheet is blue and not black, a little light gets in that way and there is also usually two or three inches I can't cover between the door and frame. So I began meditating with my head down and eyes closed, but then after a while I lifted my head and opened my eyes, and there above me, reflected in the mirror, was a line of light and above it another much fainter line. Both surrounded in darkness and looking spooky and beautiful.
I think you know that if you stare at a light in a dark room, the light will tend to "migrate." Psychologists have a term for that. Even so, it's pretty wild to watch the light dance around above your head. But if you lower your head and look at it peripherally, it will often stabilize, and if you concentrate more the darkness will become even darker and the little light will begin to give off a simulacrum of “higher” illumination. Play around with it some more and you can start to get proprioceptively funky and feel that you are not looking up at the light, which is actually five or six feet above one’s head on the mirror, but are looking across at it through a sort of tunnel. And then after a while, if the rest of the stray light is right, you might see the starry vault itself. All of this is, of course, makyo but what the bleep.
Waxing Wet and Needing a Poncho—10/30/04
Neither wind, nor sleet, nor rain can keep me from my appointed rounds, except maybe a thin coating of "black" ice at 5:15 a.m. Yesterday afternoon, Shirley's nephew and I went to see the movie Ray about the life of Ray Charles, who, as you know, just died a few months ago. We both liked the movie. My favorite scene is the one where Ray is just beginning his career in Seattle and is wooing his future wife in a restaurant on a spring day with the windows open. Ray, who surely was born a musical “Genius” (one of his nicknames), became blind at seven, which had the effect of greatly increasing the acuity and sensitivity of his hearing. In this scene, he asks her if she can hear the Humming Bird. She looks at him bemusedly until he gestures towards a window some distance away. Then she sees it and bobs her head with "how-did-he-do-it" admiration. So Ray could hear a Humming Bird—but could he hear an Owl in flight? That's what now interests me.
The forecast called for rain all day today so when I got up this morning and heard it, I thought about not walking, but the idea of being cooped up all day was intolerable, so out I went into a cold, hard, though not blustery, rain. I wore a hat and hiking boots, but without an umbrella or poncho my legs soon got wet. Later on it started coming through my winter coat too. When I got to the Grove, I went to the Bench and sat on the very edge. Then I rested my hands on my knees to block some of the rain from my knees. Sitting underneath the evergreen Holly also helped. Even in the heavy rain, I was enjoying sitting there but assumed I wouldn’t have anything to report today.
I began thinking about Ray and became more aware of the sound of the rain and its three-part polyrhythm—a louder more uneven big drip on my floppy hat, shoulder, and coat from the Holly directly above, a more steady pour outside my immediate perimeter, and then perhaps the most elusive sound—a background "chu chu chu" that summed all the individual drips, plops, and pours into one unified backbeat. Hearing all those sounds, I concluded I need a poncho so in the future I can sit there without getting sick. There were interesting things to see too. Cars in the distance give trees in the far back of the "Portal" a penumbral or spectral glow, which is actually a little "spooky," as are the seemingly random flashes, like giant "fireflies," that might have a similar cause. The architectonic space, previously referred to, on the margin of the Grove was also good, as were, in fact, all the arboreally constructed spaces there.
On the paved path, I found another good reason for having worn my hiking boots. In the rain they produce a kind of hollow percussive sound that rings in my ear. Today I brought a stick with me to steady myself on the wet, leafy path, but it was now pressed into service as a Drum Major's baton. Boots and Baton made me forget about the drenching as I merrily bopped my way home on the black mirroring asphalt pavement. Then on a street leading to our place, a most entrancing and amusing sight—thirty or forty wet off-white darkly glistening leaf bags lined up in a near-perfect file, like headless "Alien Emperor Penguins" in the half-light of the Antarctic sun. I thought about running home to get my camera—A camera A camera A camera, for my House—but realized I hadn't taken any film out of the refrigerator. So I just chilled with the Penguins instead.
El Looney and La Luna—10/31/04
The Moon is back and we're gettin' it on again. This is the most concentrating experience I've ever had. I started at 4:00 a.m. with some meditation on my window curtain scrim and then I repaired to the water closet for some commodious contemplation. The sky was clear and the Moon was nearly full and since we had just switched off Daylight Savings Time, I was effectively out walking an hour earlier on this Sunday morning. In order to see the Moon, I had to lie down on the path leading to the Bench, and there I stayed for nearly an hour without moving a muscle (so it seemed) or even breathing much, watching as she played peek-a-boo with the motionless fore- and background foliage. Today I noticed how as a Full Moon "moves," she backlights different parts of the foliage, creating all kinds of interesting Rorschachian creatures and forms. The best, and the one that lasted the longest, looked like a sitting humanoid seen from behind who had his arms up in "adoration" to the Moon (obviously part projection on my part). If I could get this entranced with everything, I'd be in super state of perpetual Tada, but, alas. . . . Then with all the leaves on the ground, it was the Yellow Brick Road, or more appropriately, the gold-bestrewn path to Oz.
The Transformations of the Moon—11/1/04
I just had a Simulacrum to top all my Simulacra. They can't get much better than this. It started yesterday. I sat on the Bench in the Grove at about 4:00 p.m. and as I looked into the "Portal" I saw an interesting little light "creature." Then I turned my head just a bit to the right and there was a tree and foliage Madonna in profile. Much of her "head" was formed by just one big brown dangling leaf in the foreground thirty feet away, while the rest of her was back another sixty or seventy feet. It's amazing what imagination and projection can do in the woods. I laughed and said something like "Man, you Devas are always messin' with me. Cut it out!"
This morning I got up prepared to leave the house at 5:10. I picked up the paper and the forecast said cloudy, so I expected clouds to be rolling in soon. When I did go out, however, it was clear, with no hint of impending overcast. The 5/6 Moon was high overhead, inclining a little westerly, while bright Venus and Jupiter led me on as I walked east on Glade Drive towards the Grove. I knew the Moon would not be in the same position as yesterday and that there might be fewer leaves for our playground. I found a spot a few feet further down the path to the Bench where she would pass through foliage and vowed not to move. Actually I don't have to vow because once she starts doing her thing, it is as if a spell has been cast over me and I can't or don't want to move anything except my eyeballs. And another thing—when the Moon moves among the foliage, it is the best "Edge Effect" possible and the music of this Lowest "Sphere" is ineffably audible. This is the best music, but, of course, one must first hear and appreciate good "real" (not "pop") music before the other can be heard. No wonder the Moon is a symbol of spiritual enlightenment. She moves and cycles, is mysterious and intimate, emits light and darkness, and stimulates the eye's ethereal Tympanum. The air was quiet, except for some intermittent breezes. I would be concentrating when suddenly a little breeze would open the remaining leaves and I would see her full face. After trancing on the low-light particles of moon, this experience is like a flashlight shining in your eyes, and then when the leaves cover her up again, the darkness seems to become even darker and richer. This rapid contrast is exciting (thrilling is actually the better word), and most definitely adds to the lunar experience. At one point, I went double-visioned and saw two little creatures like PacMen of the 1980s jumping up and down as if on a trampoline, which made me laugh.
After maybe thirty minutes, she got into a fairly open space and nothing much was happening. I was just on the verge of becoming a little bored when I went panoptic and saw the ovoid shape of two branches that enclosed her. When I did so, the trees, the space, and Moon took on the appearance of an abstract Head of the Madonna with the Moon in the position where the nose would be and this cyclopean eye was beaming strong light down on me! I was under no illusion about what this was, but it was still wondrous strange to behold and I started moaning softly and more involuntarily than I ever have before. This continued for a few minutes and then rather suddenly there was an increase in light and the dark sky became more bluish gray and with that the epiphany was over. I got up and walked back to the Bench where I could still see the Moon through the leaves when I turned my head to the right, but then I looked up and saw something almost as good as the "Madonna" herself. With many of the leaves off the trees, my usual enclosed space had opened up. But those that remained were bright yellow and red and they combined with the light blue sky and the big space to remind me again of the Phaedo and Plato's Real Earth. I don't think I have ever seen a better forest scene than this.
Reaching the Lake, I saw that it was clear and that all the algae had washed away, and then when inverting, I once again felt like an astronaut looking down on the Earth from a hundred miles up. I rose and turned around, and above the embankment line separating earth and heaven was the Moon in a wispy clouded, baby-blue sky, while below, raking yellow light shared the bank with warm green. "Too much, too much, this is overload," I said as I left.
Grove for All Seasons—11/3/04
This morning was cloudy but gradually becoming clearer, the wind blustery, the leaves blowing, and the walker invigorated, ignorant of what was happening in the Electoral College. With most of the leaves off the trees, I was anxious to see what my Grove would look like. Would its splendor be diminished by the absence of leafy edge effects for the Moon, dark matter, dark Arbolita, and foliated makyo? I believed there still would be something for me. I just had to find it. I walked down the little path to the Bench, going a few feet farther than yesterday. Lying down, I realized I was on a nice comfortable inverting incline and in a spot that would hardly be visible to dog walkers above me, in that sense making it better than the Bench. In front of me and slightly to the left was Arbolita towering a hundred feet above and swaying in the wind along with the rest of the trees. It is a good view with great possibilities for star and sky gazing. And then looking behind me, I saw the dense, dark foliage of the Holly Tree, and with its interfoliated gaps through which the ambient light passed, it looked like an uncut gem, the light leading my eyes into its mysterious recesses. So now I knew that the Grove would not be diminished. And then as an extra-added attraction, the Moon decided to come out from behind the clouds and play.
Yesterday I went to D.C. to have lunch with old friends. In the commuter van one of my old van-mates said that he had been to the newly opened American Indian Museum on the Mall and hinted he was a little disappointed with it—"The floor [the atrium floor] seemed cold." He suggested that I go there and give him my opinion.
So after lunch, off I went. It was a raw, blustery, hard-raining day and I got soaked during my nearly hour-long walk over there. When I walked in, I looked up and saw the circular dome and the oculus, which, of course, reminded me of my "Pantheon" vision in the woods a month ago. Unlike the "panels" of the Pantheon, this building has concentric masonry circles that descend from the oculus. At first I was not greatly impressed. It seemed a little small and stark, or maybe it was just me working off the cold drenching I had undergone. I walked over to the first floor gift shop and then turned around and walked back towards the atrium floor, which was surrounded by people, while keeping my eyes on the overhang of the base of the stone staircase above and then watching as it movingly interfaced with the concentric circles and the oculus, and so I got my first buzz—the musical unveiling edge effects I always like— and changed my opinion about the building. When I climbed the stairs up through the four levels, I watched for and enjoyed more such edge effects. And then upon reaching the top level, I went to the four-foot wall and looked over to the Atrium Floor below. This gave me a really different perspective from my one upon entering. It was vertiginously high and, as I looked down, I seemed to have an "Olympian" view of the humanity walking and playing beneath me. I say "playing" because there was a large group of teenagers who were romping around in the space, many of them doing dance-like movements. It was like watching an improvised ballet, better to my eyes, on this day at least, than even the best choreographed ones.
I didn't spend much time in the exhibit areas, although I enjoyed one on "Indian Modernist" artists (Alan Hauser and George Morrison) and another on "Universes" about creation myths and stories. Otherwise I found most of the other exhibits difficult to view because they were darkly lit and jumbled and didn't seem very coherent. This is just the beginning, however, and I'm sure that will change. I really did like one Trompe l'Oeil visual effect. One dark display case is enclosed with some kind of curved reflecting Plexiglas or other material and it reflects the lettering on some cases opposite it. But these reflections seem to stand out stereoscopically and exist in the space between the opposing cases so one walks "through" them. I saw at least one visitor who was startled and confused by this illusion. So please, curators, at least don't change this part of the exhibit area.
During the night, another weather front blew in and scattered the rain clouds, so when I left the house at 5:15 the Half Moon was almost directly over my head above the still blustery wind. And, as predicted in the Post's “Sky Watch” column, Venus and Jupiter were "cheek to cheek" in front of me as I walked east on Glade. The path to the Grove is now better lit, not only because of the Moon but because most of the leaves are gone. When I reached a right turn that leads to the Grove there was a sudden, startling darkness that reminded me of the "Christmas Tree Lights" going out but on a much bigger scale. I looked up and saw a fast-moving wispy cloud passing below the Moon—a type of Lunar Eclipse I had never encountered before and so I raised my arms in salute and gratitude. When I lay down on the little path, I noticed how much the trees were swaying in the wind. What is the beautiful Harmonic Series that describes the bending of boughs and branches in the mutually interacting dance of blowing trees? This is seen better on one's back in the dark because color and strong light do not overpower the pure grace of the moving forms. It's like a choreographer who puts his/her dancers in black dress against a white background or vice versa. I remembered how John Muir once tied himself high up in a Sequoia Tree during a violent thunderstorm in the California Sierras, and I realized what a ride that must have been! As the branches, twigs, and leaves edged and passed over the stars, "click click flicking" and making stellar music, I sub-vocalized Stanley Kowalski's famous cry. The Moon was hidden behind the dense foliage of the Holly Tree and for the first time she was not the object of my undivided adoration. At one point, I felt a little "guilty" and forced myself to look into the obscuring facade put up by the Holly. Then I became more aware of the uncut gem that is the Holly and thought how I might move through its interfoliated light just as I passed through the reflection in the Indian Museum. The light having increased a little, I moved to the Bench and lay down. Here the Moon was in a more open space but surrounded by clumps of branches which one after another were blown right up to and over her. They seemed like frenetic children competing for the attention of their Mother, each crying in turn, as I heard them singsong, "Do you love me?". . . "I love you". . . "look at me, Mommy."
And then with another upsurge in illumination, the wind died down and everything became rather still, and I noticed that on this clear November morning the Moon appears brightest and perhaps most beautiful a half-hour before sunrise, seeming to shine with her own internal glow but also with all the light that the non-competing Sun can pour into her.
Ooze Me to the Moon—11/7/04
We've been having great fall weather here the last few days and it looks like it will continue for almost another week. On the way to the Grove this morning I noticed that Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon are moving closer together. Yesterday Kenny told me that on Tuesday the Crescent Moon would be right between Jupiter and Venus. I am looking forward to that!
As I entered the path to the Grove, I became strongly aware of the shadows cast by the Quarter Moon. Why did this seem so new to me, I asked myself. The answer is that before retiring I rarely walked in the woods at night, and if I did, it was probably in the spring or summer when there were leaves on the trees and moon shadows would have been very hard to discern. Looking at moon shadows is akin to admiring dark Arbolita. I stopped by one such shadow and began to trip out when I realized I would be losing time seeing Her Majesty herself surrounded by her forest courtiers. So off I went with a little twinge of regret. I lay down on the duff on another side of Arbolita and positioned myself so there would be some foliage and branches in view. When the Moon is in the treeless, daylight sky, she is a distant monarch, wan, and two-dimensional, but in the woods she is the most intimate of beings, and that is because she is right there, moving among her forest subjects. I love to watch as her photons are gradually swallowed up by foliage or branches, and I even try to predict which will be the next to go. The best came when, with just a very slight movement of my head, I positioned the Moon right next to a branch, Venus between two close branches, and Jupiter next to another branch, hoping to see them extinguished all at once. I came pretty close, but that little Vixen Venus soon popped back out from behind her thin branch.
This is about the best visual game I have ever played, and does moon gazing ever quiet me down, especially on a Sunday morning like today, so that I seem to hear the breathing of the forest and maybe even the great wide Earth itself. It is a state I have been in nowhere else. My observation about the beauty of the Moon a half-hour before sunrise was verified again today. When I walked next to the treeless playground and looked up into the silver-gray light-blue sky and saw her again glowing so warmly, I thought, one quarter seriously, that this had to be the "Enlightenment" Moon of myth, legend, and lore.
Lunar Fragments and Fractals—11/8/04
Jupiter, Venus, Moon
and the uncut gem
that is the Holly
I’m becoming like one of those Bodice Ripees on the cover of a Romance Novel. La Tierra Madre y La Luna are ravishing me. Stepping outside this morning, I immediately looked for the Crescent Moon and saw that she was surrounded by an atmospheric halo. She was still shining brightly, but I wondered what this new guise might reveal. In the Grove, I lay down beneath Arbolita and positioned the Moon near some branches and foliage. Venus was also visible but Jupiter was mostly hidden. The wind was blowing rather strongly, but its sound does not at all disturb the preternatural calm and silence that descends on me while moon gazing. I watched the fragments come and go and then would look above and below her, while still keeping her peripherally in view. She would bounce around, which is the opposite of what happens while commodiously contemplating, but eventually she would quiet herself, and, then when looking up peripherally, I would see the simulacrum of higher illumination, which looked, briefly, like the Masonic Mystic Eye on the money. As I continued to concentrate on her, the crescent became the smile on the Cheshire Cat, and then I seemed to see little sparkles all around her like a nebula of tiny starlets. “How can this be—there are not enough foliage or branches for a cat's head, and how are little sparkles visible next to the Moon?” And then I remembered the halo. The halo was the head and somehow, I guess, was also the sparkles' medium. If that is so, they can only be seen under conditions of forest rapture. When the light reached a certain level, the trance lifted and I began walking the path, but as I looked up and saw the Moon and how she so beautifully fit between the dark branches of a tree, I lay down again.
Soon I heard some running steps and got up, but too late. As the jogger passed, he said with a chuckle, "I caught you doing whatever you were doing"; and I replied, "Just moon watching. I'm moonstruck." He chuckled again. When I reached the paved path, I again looked at the Moon and saw an airplane rising diagonally above her and leaving a perfectly straight pink contrail that descended and passed over her. Bright "enlightenment" Moon, pink ribbon, baby-blue sky—it took my breath away and I had to stop. A jogger passed and noticing what I was doing, looked up but kept on going. Arriving at the lake, I saw that the dark, rippling water was clear. The sky was light blue and covered with cirrus clouds, which did not at all exclude the light of dawn. I inverted and was thrilled by what I saw —so deep and vast it seemed—and then a lone bird appeared “under” my head and shot for the other end of the “ocean.” I don't know what it was—maybe Shelley's “Skylark” ("Teach me half the gladness/That thy brain must know,/Such harmonious madness/From my lips would flow"), although I heard only its inaudible song, or the Inverted Bird of Paradise, so quickly and swiftly did it disappear into this most beautiful empyrean. As I continued to look into the "Ocean," I seemed to detect some motion and then saw the now much paler Crescent Moon skirting behind and between the cirrus clouds. She was camouflaged and seemed to fit in so perfectly among the cirrians, who, at first, I thought looked like sun-illuminated ice formations on a windshield. Then I realized that, even more, they were enlarged frozen-fractals of the Moon herself—just the kind that I have been seeing for the last two months. “What goes around, comes around,” as the Moon never tires of saying.
The Constellation Makers—11/9/04
So I’ve heard the Moon’s Music
call me Looney Tunes
I do not care
After yesterday's adventure, the clouds rolled in and I thought the next day's conjunction might be a cloud-out, but at sunset they dissipated, which augured well for the morning. When I left the house, it was clear as a bell, but the arrangement of the three bodies was different, and more poetic, than I had been told. In the middle was Jupiter, the least brilliant, and above him an inch at arm’s length was the Cradle Moon. Below him at two inches and somewhat to the left was Venus. The three formed a triangle with an obtuse angle at Jupiter (he's always getting fooled by females) of about 140 degrees. Jupiter never had it so good and neither did I. As I walked east on Glade, they were serenaded with all the hand jive my geezoid body could provide. I took my usual station beneath Arbolita and tried to position myself so that the three would all be in view. Today was not the day for triadic extinguishment but for continuing presence. With even more leaves gone, I had little difficulty keeping some of the diminished Moon in view, but Venus and Jupiter proved more problematic. With periodic ocular adjustments, I managed to keep them all together about half the time. They then became the anchors for a moving set of forest constellations in which the leaves and branches provided the flesh and integument. I saw a hunter, perhaps a cousin of Orion, and a sitting sage. And then near the end of my session, the Moon took a position as the eye of a horse-like creature, with Jupiter as the glint of its open mouth, and Venus as a glowing cube of sugar that was being offered. I looked more closely at the horse and saw that it had a horn-like protuberance, albeit somewhat blunt and squat, on the top of its head. "Could this be a new species of Unicorn? I thought only pure-hearted virgins could see them. Well, why not? Anything might happen with these brilliant and glorious constellation makers." Then the light began to come up and I rose.
As I walked the path, it seemed that Venus and Jupiter might be fading and I thought that the best might be over. Oh ye of little faith—never dismiss these Celestial Orbs thirty minutes before sunrise. And so, as I walked past the playground, there in the silver-gray light of predawn was the "Enlightenment" Constellation itself. Perhaps it is worth a lifetime to see something like this at least once!
The Voice of Venus—11/10/04
Having just come in from the cold, my hands are numb and I'm having a little difficulty typing. Please warm up and please Muse do not desert me and please words do not fail me, not today, not now. Because of a cloud-out, I missed the Transit of Venus in June but today made up for that many-fold. Leaving the house this cold and clear morning, I did not know what the sky would present, hardly expecting it could be better than yesterday, but I had hopes and they were quickly realized.
There, big and low on the horizon, was the most beautiful rock-a-bye-baby Moon imaginable, five to ten degrees above the horizon—so low it seemed almost to be cradling the earth as it certainly was the trees. How did the Ancients explain the gray earthlight sheen on the rest of the darkened portion of this Orb? It is obviously the Moon herself, shining in both crescent white and celestial translucent gray. Did they worship this Moon above all else as I do? Beyond the Moon was Venus, and equidistant above her on a slight angle was Jupiter, as if Euclid himself had laid them out. They looked like a most brilliant Belt of Orion, except the line from the Moon to Jupiter was not perfectly straight but formed an angle of perhaps 160 degrees at Venus, which was both the perfect center of the two-dimensional belt and the apex of the tilted isosceles triangle. Jupiter, at the top of the Belt, but at the right base of the triangle, may have been thirty-five or forty degrees above the horizon.
My walk was rapid. I could not wait to get to the Grove. Taking my seat beneath Arbolita, I saw Venus and Jupiter clearly and a part of the Moon, but in this kind of seeing, a fragment is no diminishment because the mind becomes rapt and plays in these concealments and unveilings, for this is the Music of these Spheres. "High" Jupiter, in an area largely devoid of leaves and branches, stayed mostly in view, but the lower Venus and Moon were prone to partial and total obscurations, especially the former because of her smaller size. The bigger Moon oozes out her music, but Jupiter, the smallest, tends to punctuate his song with a "pop" from behind a branch or leaf; but even with Jupiter, the most careful attention can catch the gradual passing of photons. Venus can ooze or pop, depending on the environment in which she is temporarily residing. Seeing this alignment and the possibilities it held, I went slack-jawed, wide-eyed, and more concentrated than I have ever been. At one point, they all appeared like clichÈd stars of Bethlehem, with halos and rays extending out from them. The Moon came close to extinguishment only once but recovered before completely slipping away. Venus disappeared many times but after great anticipation, would come back with a "pop" until. . . .
She had been away for what seemed an "eternity" when she came out so slowly and I heard her song gradually rising like the ecstatic, yearning voice of the Soprano who soars above the chorus in the final movement of Mahler's Second "Resurrection" Symphony, a piece of music that always reduces me to vibrating synapses.
This is the sound that I have heard periodically in the best dreams of my life, and now in these woods, where I have had some of the best experiences of my life, I was hearing it again.
Signs and Wonders—11/11/04
I learned this morning that there will be no need to mourn the passing of the Enlightenment Constellation. The stars, trees, and an occasional lunar visitation will be enough. As I approached the entrance to the Grove, I saw some shapes in front of me, and remembering your admonition, I turned on my flashlight to avoid a collision. It was the jogger and his little dog, doing their thing much earlier than usual. For a few seconds we did an Alfonse and Gaston routine, each gesturing for the other to pass, until I said, pointing to the Grove: "Go ahead. I'm going down there. Have a good day!" Now he must certainly suspect I am engaged in some strange rites. He already knows I'm a little different, since he's caught me at least once raising my arms in salute to a tree.
I lay beneath Arbolita, which seems to have supplanted the Bench as my preferred resting place these days. I got in the habit while watching the Moon and her friends and now realize that it also affords a better view of the Holly. The sky was partly cloudy but there were a few stars out. I tracked one and waited for it to pass behind some leaves. When it did, I heard my musical "flick" and noticed that when this one little tiny star disappeared behind the much bigger mass of foliage, the whole scene suddenly seemed to go darker and richer—another great and, I'm sure, perpetually enjoyable, variation on the Christmas Tree Light effect. And then, just a few seconds later, I saw out of my peripheral vision a streak of light flash right above me, just to the left of Arbolita's crown. It must have been a “shooting star,” the first I had seen in Grove and the best, because so unexpected and highly placed, I have ever experienced. I was astounded. As I thought about these, I saw peripherally and then directly a big Owl fly to the right of Arbolita, fifteen feet or so above my head. Was something trying to tell me that a fall and winter of stargazing in these woods would be good? The clouds parted some more and Venus and Jupiter appeared, about in the same place as yesterday, just a little higher. Jupiter "popped" around a bit, and then Venus oozed her way into a song, while up above them a bright white contrail hovered in the dark blue/black sky. As I left the Grove, the spaces were deep and quiet and the clouds pink.
The Marriage of Heaven and Earth
Trees and stars together
rubbing oozing squeezing
When I stepped outside this morning and saw the clear sky and Venus and Jupiter in their accustomed places, I had a premonition of good things to come. As I walked on Glade, the planets played between the top branches of the trees, making a music that looked like airplane warning lights on a funky beat. Then I remembered yesterday stopping in traffic at the same place where I had heard the Chopin Waltz a few weeks ago. Another composition was playing on the radio but the oncoming lights were still harmonizing with it and I realized that these lights did not need synchrony for, with the help of the listener, they could find their way into any good piece of music. In the Grove, I lay down in the duff, resting my head on Arbolita's lap and looked into the sky through the musical strings of the forest. "Let the Concert begin." Venus then broke into a bacchanalian Torch Song, oozing and squirming every which way but loose, and in so doing becoming a miniature Hubble Telescope that showed me Double-Stars, Pulsars, Quasars, Supernovae, and a sidelong view of a Spiral Nebula—"Goddess, Indeed Thou art a Universe in a spray of photons!" And then the smaller, stolid and punctilious Jupiter played his part by becoming the eye of the Unicorn, which can also be imagined as a Buddhakorn since the "horn" looks more like the Topknot of the "Enlightened One."
Out of my left eye, I could see that Holly wanted my attention. "Yes, my Dear, you are as beautiful as ever, but Venus and Jupiter will soon be gone and you will always be with me." But this was not enough to mollify her for she sent me a gleam saying: "With my tightly woven and serrated foliage, I can ooze a star. Can your Arbolita do thaaat?" And then she had me in her embrace as she did things to a celestial body that I had never seen done before. It was over before I knew it. And then when I walked onto the path, I saw the whole dark forest as the string section of a giant orchestra. And this was not just a metaphor for these looked like "real" instruments to me on this day, at this time.
I discovered another view from the Grove this morning. Venus and Jupiter were clouded over, so instead of lying with Arbolita, I chose a dead tree to the left of the Bench and rested my head on it while looking eastward (instead of westward when on the Bench). I looked through another holly into a portal that led to some more hollies in the distance and then I froze and watched the gradual increase of light as the predawn advanced. And it too was amazing—at one point it looked as if I were getting a tremendously speeded-up course in art history, as each small up-tick in illumination seemed to usher in a new image and style. But the best was when I saw the absolute tiniest spot in the far distance that my 20/40 could manage and realized that it was a star low on the horizon. I tried my best to get some "music" from it, but I teared over from the effort and cold and lost it. Looking at those images unfold was like that original Star Trek episode in which an evil Super-Brain/Computer shows Captain Kirk and crew a sixty-second fast-forward film of Earth's history. Beam me to that class!
I had another good morning of Venus and Jupiter watching—nothing has ever put me in a zone like arboreal night sky d(g)azing. As I was just telling Shirley, when I'm in it, I actually feel that I'm watching some kind of “Divine” spectacle, just as it seemed I was really seeing those tree "instruments" the other day. In fact, I now see them that way always but not with quite the vividness and believability as the first time.
Holly Day Magic and the Three Visions—11/18/04
Yesterday, after cavorting with Venus and Jupiter, it occurred to me that it might be nice to experiment with binoculars to see what kind of musical effects I would get. For instance, by enlarging the stars would they then be able to ooze and not just pop or click? Today it was overcast, which meant the clouds retained the ambient light like greenhouse gases, thus making the morning a little brighter than usual. By the same token, the light didn’t grow very fast because the ambient light masked the beclouded sun’s slow increase. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stargaze, so first I sat on the Bench and then went to the dead tree and lay down facing east. It doesn't matter whether I choose this tree or Arbolita, in either case as soon as my head hits the trunk, I'm almost immediately immobilized with expectation and wonder. As I said before, my position on the dead tree points me towards a holly in the foreground, a portal created by two oak trunks in the middle ground and some hollies and other trees maybe a hundred feet away. The scenes change with the light and my sloshing brain chemistry.
About thirty minutes into my session, after several scenes had unfolded, very quickly, almost suddenly, some areas in the distance began to lighten up like big floating lotuses or, perhaps it's better to say, Dogwood Trees, which flower here in early spring. They are my favorite flowers because the tree's widely spaced white blossoms seem to float on air and to take the rest of the forest, including the viewer, with them. So there were these ethereal giant Dogwoods hovering in front of me, which I then realized were the spaces between the trees filling up with the increase of light. But then, for some reason, they suddenly vanished as the scene darkened. I don't know why this happened because the completely overcast conditions hadn't changed. Space blossoms—I like that idea.
A few minutes later, I went to the end of the Grove, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw behind me the back of the Bench, which had never caught my attention before. But in this light, nearly an hour before dawn, as I sat down in the duff behind the Bench, it looked like a crypt or coffin or, even better, the Ark of the Covenant in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the Nazis begin to open the Ark and all kinds of spiritual sparks and electrical charges start shooting around. In this case, as I looked at the back of the six-foot bench, my light adjusting cones and rods started vibrating even more than they do than when looking at a narrower tree trunk. It's like seeing something come into vibratory existence before my eyes—a wavelike quantum fluctuation to my imagination, at least. I think this should be good to explore in the days to come.
Then when I left, I took a slightly different path so that I walked across the basketball court and I stopped when I came to its center where the white jump ball circle and the wider concentric circle around it glistened on the wet dark gray asphalt. Forget Jasper John's famous Target paintings. This is better.
Hanging with Venus and Beethoven—11/19/04
In the woods today I sat down under the dead tree because it seemed Venus would be clouded over and instead waited for the Space Flowers. They eventually made a somewhat weak appearance, making me suspect that yesterday's overcast conditions are the soil in which they best sprout. Then there was a gleam in my eye. Turning my head to the side, I saw Venus between holly leaves and so I got lost in her as she pulled out some of her stops—not "all," for they are inexhaustibly many. It occurred to me yesterday that I might even tire of Beethoven if I listened to his music every morning, but that I would never do that watching and listening to the Music of the Spheres, for the first is music sent to heaven, while the second comes from there. As I walked the path, I passed the "String Section" and then I approached the "Old Friend" I mentioned in an earlier message. As I passed two small trees on either side of me, I stopped (or was stopped) and seemed to enter a different space, as if my "Old Friend" and the others around him were at last welcoming me into the Fellowship of the Tree Rings. This came to me totally unbidden. I didn't anticipate it as I often do when walking through "portals."
Yesterday, while waiting for a friend and former neighbor to visit us in Reston, I walked past an embankment leading above the forest where I took inverted mirror world photos in 2002 and decided to hang on its rather steep incline. It was good but I soon realized that motorists could see me upside down and splayed out, which might provoke a 911 call. So I went into the forest on top of what I call Mt. Reston, which is one of the ridges that loom over Glade Stream Valley. Here I found a good spot from which to hang. Today I decided to add Mt. Reston to the stations of my morning pilgrimage. I hung from the other side of the "mountain" facing the pink clouds of sunrise. Repeating what I said several months ago, when I am upside down, especially on a high steep ridge inhabited by many tall trees, everything is better—vaster, deeper, more mysterious and profound—and so relaxing and entrancing. Birds seem to be heard and felt as much in the body as in the ear. The middling trees of the East become the Giant Sequoias of the West, obviously not in sheer physical scale but certainly in emotional resonance, and autumn leaves do not just fall. They ascend, fly, and float, and fall. And seen from a slightly different angle the trees can become a horizontal canopy that partially surrounds and covers the Topsy-Turvy practitioner. Rising from such an experience, the upright world may seem pale and profane by comparison, but that too will change with time and practice.
Hanging from Mt. Reston—11/22/04
I haven't been able to star g(d)aze for almost a week now because of cloud cover but sitting next to Holly on the dead tree and looking for the Space Flowers has also been fun. Today it was Space Leaves right up close to me—space between holly leaf clusters that look like the most ethereal diaphanous leaves imaginable in the anti-crepuscular light of predawn. Another exciting thing was a sudden up-tick in light in part of the forest. I've seen this before but not as clearly and surprisingly as today. It's as if nature's "light dimmer" has suddenly been turned up—a reverse Christmas Tree Light Effect. Is this the way light itself works or is it the eye, which once a certain threshold is passed, registers an increase, or a combination of light and eye? But today's hang on Mt. Reston was the tops. The combination of still air, dark trunks, brown leaves, and gray sky was perfect. Inverting on this ridge is about the most relaxing experience I've had and it's even easier on the neck than hanging off a dock because the whole body is on one relatively straight plane. The trees and sky really do look better because one is looking "down" and not craning the neck, as when one looks up while sitting or standing. Even when hanging over a dock or stream bank, the neck works more efficiently with gravity than when standing. This means, for me at least, that I see more clearly and passionately and that I pick up forms and their "music" better.
Riding the Bench Again—11/22/04
I amend what I said this morning. Hanging on Mt. Reston is great but equally as good is lying on the Bench and looking up at the hollies. I discovered that during two later trips to the Grove. With all the other trees denuded, the hollies are the only leafers left and on a gray day like today, they do great things by crystallizing the light that passes through and around them. Looking up from the Bench, there are a trunk and branches and a big hole in the center where the oak's leaves used to be, the refracting hollies surrounding them and on the perimeter behind, bare trees whose branches actually seem to be emphasized by the hollies' light play. During the spring and summer, their deciduous cousins overshadow them, but now they have the whole playing field to themselves and they make the most of it. Now I know why one version of the Christmas Song “The Holly and the Ivy” goes: "The Rising of the Sun and the Running of the Deer, the sweetest sound I ever heard. . ." And also one of the sweetest sights.
The Holly Season—11/23/04
O luminous Bright Hole
and multi-tiered shining Singularity
collector, refractor, and freezer of light
Among the taller, now leafless, trees about me
you, humble incandescent bush,
bring the richer and deeper happiness
I went to the hollies twice more today and as I lay beneath them on the bench I tried to decode their magic. These verses are about as close as I can come. This is exactly what the Holly, seen from below on one's back, seems to do to light and space. The closely woven leaves piled one on top of the other create a series of natural lenses that make the Holly the best of Mother's Crystals of Light. With Arbolita in hibernation, she will be my winter love.
Unhinging Mind and Body—11/25/04
When I left the house this morning, it was still overcast but with some patches of clear sky. Being Thanksgiving, it was quiet and nobody else was about. In the woods, I settled in next to Holly (actually there are ten various-sized hollies that link up to make one big ‹ber-Holly, so they're all "Holly") and went into my motionless, entranced stillness while looking at the Arcadian Portal with its Space Flowers and "Holly" with her Space Leaves. Watching the ever-so-gradual increase of light in the woods has to be one of nature's greatest gifts. But then as I moved my eyes around, I would see what seemed like heat lightning—not the sudden permanent up-tick I described a few days ago, but a kind of flash across my visual field. As I later discovered during a fly-over, they also might be compared to the flicker of a warning light from a low-flying invisible and noiseless (stealth) airplane. These transitory light phenomena are part and parcel of day's increase and all are beautiful to behold.
Then out of the corner of my right eye, I saw a very bright object (everywhere else the sky was dark) and was momentarily unnerved—“an alien hover craft?” Quickly regaining my composure, I realized it must be low-horizoned Venus popping out of the cloud cover and staring at me from between Holly's leaves. This was a most marvelous Venutian visitation because it was so unexpected and sudden. And then she disappeared and was not to be brought back for all my upper vertebral gyrations. However, a minute or so later, Jupiter, it must have been, also made a brief appearance before popping back into the darkness. When I left the Grove, I noticed there were a few gaps in the clouds through which these "wanderers" could have appeared.
Next stop—Mt. Reston, where I chose a different spot from yesterday. By this time, the clouds were scudding briskly along and some patches of blue were appearing. It was good, vigorous sky "music." After about ten or fifteen minutes of hanging, I bent my head back just a little further so I could better see the valley below and soon thereafter had the sensation of floating in zero-gravity, although I was still stationery, of course, and could feel my back pressing against the ground. Nevertheless, this was the most interesting, disorienting, and proprioceptively ambiguous feeling I've ever had. Newton and Einstein made the connections between acceleration and gravity. Hanging upside-down on a ridge so relaxes and decelerates one that the mind, already made proprioceptively funky by the act of inverting, can be tricked just a little into believing that gravity has been unhinged.