It was a clear morning and I hoped to see the Crescent Moon two days before she goes "new," but there was no sign of her as I walked Glade.
But the stars were out. It's amazing how much of the night sky is obscured by ambient light, and around here it's only going to get worse. I lay down on the Bench and looked for stars and Jupiter in and around Holly. Playing with the stars can be just as fun and entrancing as oozing the Moon. Their slow extinguishment sets in motion the same rapturous self-oblivion and they can counterpoint each other. As one star oozes out another oozes in. At one point, as a starscape formed, I seemed to be looking down the Road to Mandalay, an expression I have always loved.
Just as I was about to leave the Grove, I saw the Crescent Moon behind some trees low in the southeast sky. It didn't appear that there was any vantage point from which to ooze her so I decided to walk with her instead. It was fun to watch her move behind files of trees big and small as we strolled along together. I reached the pavement, which put me in a good groove, and there we paced back and forth like convicts in an exercise yard. When we walked with her convex side moving forward, she was an icebreaker churning through northern seas as seen through the trees of a Boreal Forest, or the other way she was a concave sea monster swallowing plankton and fishes through her gaping maw.
When I left this stretch of path, she became more difficult to see, although I hoped for a reunion at the Lake. And there she was. For the first time, the "Enlightenment" Crescent Moon was hanging over the long section of the lake and so I immediately inverted, which I know from years of experience is more mythopoeically stimulating than sitting or standing upright. Again she was a pebble or boulder in the cosmic ocean, but with only a sliver to mark her igneous origins. In order to keep the boulder in view, I also had to see the grayish "earthlight" part of the Moon, and as I did, she seemed to turn one way and another like a bobbing buoy. This was the result of concentrated staring, but there's no way this would have happened in the upright position, staring or not. And then she began to transform herself as sea creatures have done from time immemorial. She was exposed brain matter, a shining "Mohawk" haircut, a leaping "flying" fish or dolphin, an eel, something slithering and priapic, and then as her light grew fainter in the increasing dawn, a kind of skull cap. When the light grew even stronger, she ceased all movement and became the wan moon of day.
Basho (from The Essential Haiku, edited by Robert Hass) says: "It is the poetic spirit, the spirit that leads one to follow nature and become a friend with things of the season. For a person who has the spirit, everything he sees becomes a flower, and everything he imagines turns into a moon. Those who do not see the flower are no different from barbarians, and those who do not imagine the moon are akin to beasts. Leave barbarians and beasts behind; follow nature and return to nature." When the Moon and stars are extinguished, they leave in their wake a deep space crimson rose.
Oozing Star Light
Bringing forth ephemeral constellations
in the space forested woods
ethereal music imperishable sights
Imagine this—you're lying on the Bench oozing a star to its roseate end when the Space Forest comes up. It is deep and rich and just a little spooky. The boles are huge, barked and striated, and a Tiki god looks down on you. Jupiter appears behind a space tree followed by a nearby star. This two-star constellation goes in and out, in and out, and then a third star way up above and at the top of the Space Forest appears. Now there is a large triangular constellation shining through the space trees and they ooze, disappear, reappear and re-constellate. Then out of the back of your head, or so it seems, you sense some light and there shining a little behind your head are three symmetrical stars (later they turn out to be the end of the Dipper's handle) and they start dancing the same little jig. And on and on it goes, until it's time to leave. Tada Time!
Then at the dock you invertedly trance on the last sliver of the Crescent Moon and it becomes the stamen in its own gray rose. And then as you look harder and stronger, the dark earthlight portion of the Orb becomes even clearer, even though the sun's light is increasing, and so you witness your first dawning lunar eclipse.
Uprightly is sprightly
but inverted is perverted
and ever so much more fun
Today I "discovered" a new proprioceptively ambiguous position for the Dada Sutra of Stargazing and also a variation on slit-scanning. When I left the house at 4:45 a.m. a diminished Jupiter was the only one out in the cloudy sky, followed later by the top star in the "Constellation" I mentioned yesterday, which I now call the Scooter, although it's sloping and elongated vertical and short horizontal sections make it look like a scooter designed by El Greco or Giacometti. (Yesterday, I bought a star chart and with the help of one on the Internet, I'm trying to identify some stars. The one closer to Jupiter is Spica and Arcturus may be the one on top but I'm not positive. It's a little difficult getting oriented in the woods.) Spica came out midway in the "session" and then just as I left, the rest of the light-polluted array appeared when the cloud cover lifted. Two diminished stars were sufficient for a while. Then they got a little hard to see so I cupped my hands behind my back to raise my head a little. That worked for several minutes. Finally I rolled over partway on my side and assumed a modified Lion Posture (as in meditation) with the side of my head cupped in my right hand while my elbow rested on the Bench. I wasn't completely on my side or I wouldn't have been able to look up very easily. I thought this slightly twisted Lion Posture would be uncomfortable but it wasn't. Raised up, with a scarf around my chin blocking the horizon, I was primed for a little levitating. Jupiter came on and a dark spooky Space Forest followed eight seconds or so later. Jupiter split in two and became the uncanny shining eyes of a nocturnal cat. Then the eyes diverged even further until right in front of me and right next to the Tiki god, a big leonine gargoylish face loomed up, which was even spookier. (By the way, the word or thought "Lion Posture" had not yet occurred to me!) But I wasn't afraid, for I knew a few shakes of my head could dissipate the beast. Instead I watched entranced as I lost all awareness of my relationship to the ground and seemed to see some car lights in the distance almost as if I were in a low-flying aircraft. This was one wild makyo ride. For the first time in nearly two weeks, I hung over Mt. Reston and reacquainted myself with that experience after snow and wet ground had kept me away.
At the Dock, I inverted into the light blue sky of dawn, watching contrails, geese, and a hawk go by. And then I put my hands in front of me as if to slit-scan, but hesitated before looking for some trees to focus on because I remembered I never really had had much luck with that. I thought that was just because looking "down" on the sky was already panoptic enough and couldn't be made to "blast" much further with whatever tricks I might perform. So instead, while pointed to the sky, I just started to widen the slit gradually, noticing as I did that I seemed to be looking through a widening cathedral-like window with a central pane of glass that let in the blue and gray and a peripheral pane that let in the lighter, whiter hues. With that nice image in mind, I continued to open until I completely released, whereupon I got my first legitimate lacustrine blast.
I just got back from the Grove. It's now 1:30 p.m. I wanted to go there again because the sky is clear and there will not be too many days left for seeing the gamut of blue sky of winter. As the sun rises, the sky's color will even out.
Last fall at the end of a lunar episode, I described how I looked back and up from the Bench and saw Plato's "Real Earth." I see it again when I look there and see the trees in the purple sky. All I do is arch my head a little and I feel I'm on the same plane with the trees and on one side they are especially beatific with their barks ranging from almost black to greenish to dark brown and light brown, tan, and almost white; but best of all they look in this proprioceptively ambiguous state like the skeleton hull of a Viking Ship under construction. There is something about seeing all those parallel trees arrayed in three-dimensional space parallel to me that I find entrancing. And then looking up (or down) at the tops of the shining branches and their incarnated light always sets me off. Some high up seem so strange and painterly almost and with a little trance staring they glow like filaments. That always fires my mind. And then just as I was thinking about how to describe this suddenly a shadow from an airplane passed over this light, flickering it into shadow, and then when it exploded back on—BAM—a true zen experience!
I went to the Grove this morning with the idea of assuming the Lion Posture again, but there were no stars out and I had a hard time getting comfortable so I lay on my back most of the time. And then I decided to try again and rediscovered the correct place to put my palm—just below my ear—and that felt okay. Now I know why the Space Forest came up so fast, close and spooky. Looking at the space where Jupiter was yesterday, I realized I was twisting my head and eyeballs, which combined with the usual focused staring, made for a fast and deep trance. The twist brought spaces that otherwise would have been in the background right up close. It's why I saw the leonine gargoyle and also why I got that exaggerated levitation effect. I was able to do it again today even without Jupiter as my goad.
This purpleblue sky is sticking around longer than I thought it would. So maybe Matisse and I can agree or at least overlap in our preferences. It's amazing what some purple sky mixed with some proprioceptive ambiguity can do for the spirit. I didn't even expect it to be clear today so I was very pleased when I looked out and saw the clear sky. Lying on the Bench I got progressively worked up looking at the incarnated light, the branches and twigs in shadow piling one on top of the other, the spaces leading the eyes up and up, and, of course, the purple. Then for the first time I decided to look to my other side—the one I thought would not show me much. No, it didn't have a Viking ship under construction, but when I arched my head and bent it slightly to the side, I was suddenly with the trees, flying or growing or whatever we were doing together. Just an arch and a tilt and it's up up and away. And then just as that was happening, the first fly of winter buzzed my head.
Holly oozes stars at night
but by day her tightly-woven fabric
makes her own firmament
This morning I took a ride on the Scooter—a "constellation" which, going from low to high in the sky, is composed of Spica, Jupiter, and Arcturus. I assumed the Lion Posture and within seconds my first Space Forest was up, but watching the celestial shenanigans of these three was the highpoint of the morning. There is something about the twist in my body and head that stimulates double vision and the overall musicality of stargazing. When a star or Jupiter goes double, I see its left and right aspects, which can be quite different in Holly's tightly woven fabric. And so are their oozing on and off rhythms. At one point Spica and Jupiter went double and they were popping around like that scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind where the earthlings are trying to communicate with the just-landed Mother Ship using a simple melody and a synesthetic-like light show. Later on I was trancing on Arcturus and a vortex formed as it started to wane so I raised my finger and "put" it in the vortex and "touched" the star. Next I ran my finger around the circular edge of the vortex and rang its "tone" like a water glass performer. That was fun.
Space Forest II (Too)—2/12/05
Here's an interesting coincidence. As you know one of the last frontiers on earth is the sea. The other, until recently, was the upper canopy in tropical rain forests and the coastal Redwoods of Northern California. The February 14/21 New Yorker has an article entitled "Climbing the Redwoods" about a Humboldt State University botany professor, Stephen Sillett, who is the first to explore and study the upper canopy of these 300 to 400-foot trees. Before his work, most biologists thought this region was a barren Redwood "desert" that contained nothing more than leaves and bark, etc. It turns out, however, that it is a whole new ecosystem. What makes it so is "canopy soil" that accumulates in the branches and other nooks and crannies and allows all kinds of things to grow, including small trees—a forest within a forest. I don't recall reading a term for this phenomenon in the article, but I immediately dubbed it a Space Forest II, since it grows not on the ground but in the upper spatial reaches of a giant tree. I was reading this article and getting progressively more fascinated by this idea of a forest in the top of a tree when I turned the page and there was a photo of Sillett standing between two trunks of the Redwood named "Adventure" (many have been given Greek mythological names) and, Holy Trancefying, if this doesn't look like an almost perfect representation of one view of my Space Forest. All I have to do is eliminate Sillett and imagine the same photo taken in lower light conditions and—Voila!—the Space Forest has been captured like a fleeing forest Nymph. You might recall that I first called the trees Banyans, then Cypresses, and finally Redwoods. Actually all three can be imagined in different locations and under different conditions. Even the space in which Sillett stands is a deep black shadow (like the "real" trees in a Space Forest) and of the same approximate size as the ones that are surrounded by my Space Trees. I verified all this again today.
During the last two weeks, the sky would have been almost a "Redwood Desert" with nothing glowing in its canopy soil if Jupiter hadn't been there midway in the southwest. Last November I called him "stolid and punctilious," which is certainly true in comparison with the ravishing goddesses Venus and Luna, but he's also been constant, the only bright body up all winter, and playful, showing me several new tricks. Joined by Spica and Arcturus, he anchors the 100-degree angle in the elongated, ephemeral "constellation" known to me as the Scooter.
So today I'm on the Bench in the Lion Posture, watching Spica and Jupiter go off and on. Spica pops out and Jupiter starts to ooze slowly away. I semi-involuntarily raise my left arm, which darkens and deepens the trance (it seems to work that way) and Jupiter disappears into a crimson vortex. From my own spaced-out vortex, I half-consciously sense light. I don't or can't move immediately but when I finally do I gradually become aware of Arcturus shining at the top of the handle. This was pure celestial music—the off and on, the oozing out, the gradual awareness of another light. Then when I leave I look up at the constellation and a few stars around it, point to them one by one, making a simple little up-the-scale melody.
Lift the Arms—2/15/05
This morning I decided to lie against the Adoration Rampike facing the Eastern Portal and try to bring up the Space Forest there that looks like the picture in The New Yorker article I mentioned. I huffed and I puffed and I puffed and I huffed. I raised my arms and framed the stick, but nothing was working. It must be because of the earlier arrival of dawn, I thought, and so I decided just to sit there in the quotidian pre-dawn darkness.
Then I saw one new star just in front and high above me shining through Holly. She was small but she would do and so we began our little trance dance. Soon, without even thinking about it, the scene started to darken and it was helped because I was looking past a branch that extended out and up from me. A Space Forest arose and because I had been looking up so much past the branch into the star, it seemed very high and colossal. I was sitting before an arboreal version of a temple, so big, high, and close were the boles. They were the giant pillars or columns of Karnak. "Holy Ancient Kingdom," I exclaimed to myself. The Adoration Rampike against which I was sitting had gone totally black and as I looked up at her I saw a scene that is very hard to describe—a soft light against this darkness that was transcendentally beautiful to behold. Now the best part of this was the way the Space Forest decayed—very slowly, very slowly, leaving the Rampike in total darkness for several minutes as light gathered around it as if it were a canopy above me.
Makyo vs. Super-Makyo —2/17/05
When I stepped out, the sky was mostly clear. Assuming the Lion Posture on the Bench, I played with my Scooter for a while and then went over to the Adoration Rampike in hopes that I could bring back the Temple of Karnak, the Black Bole above my head, and the "Higher Light." I found Vega (that, I believe, is the star that Holly oozed yesterday) and tranced on her and the Space Forest came up quickly. The Pillars of Karnak were there but the blackness was not in the Rampike so I knew the experience would not be repeated today. But when I turned my head down, for the first time I saw the Eastern Portal after I had brought up the Space Forest, and that was very enchanting because I had suddenly come upon the Portal as a glass window looking into the deep dark Arcadian world beyond. I had seen this before, but usually in the act of bringing up the Space Forest, so the element of surprise was not there. This time it was and it was great!
This morning I walked across the Misty Moors of Reston on my way to the Grove. It had rained and was still foggy. In the woods, it was probably darker than at any time since the leaves fell off and it was spooky, just the way I like it. I assumed the Lion Posture and as I turned my head and eyes in the dark environment the Space Forest instantly came up. A few minutes later it vanished and then I looked towards the Western Portal where I often see the Rorschachians. Today, because of the fog, there seemed to be a strange, ineffable light back there and I withheld myself from trancing on it because maybe it was just a little too spooky. I twisted my head and eyes the other way and up came the Space Forest again, and this time dark giant Columns of Karnak space trees encircled me on every side—a very awesome and inspiring makyo sight. Imagine spellbound Sleeping Beauty enclosed again in a circle of dark giant trees. That was it. If somebody were to see this for the first time without preparation, they would probably be sore afraid, but, of course, I am a Space Forest veteran and know what is happening. I looked towards the Western Portal and the area where the ineffable light was because I had never seen such big "trees" there. Then I saw some little lights peeking through the trees. Now this was spooky. "Are these sprites, spirits, or aliens coming for me!?" And then ever so slowly the curtain of these "Trees" began to lower as if something or someone were revealing
herself. This was a slow dissipation similar in action to the light I had seen above me a few days ago. I was no longer anxious, for this was a beautiful sight. A curtain was being lowered as a beautiful woman might do in a dressing room to beguile a panting suitor. I tried it several other times, but the first was best. Now I await the next dark foggy day in Reston town. The mist was still hanging around when I got to the Lake, making for a great undifferentiated hanging effect.
Forever Luna Forever Moon—2/23/05
Moon flirting with clouds
she wanes I wax and go out
I love the Full Moon!
Moon behind a cloud
oozes back like a shy drop
you got slow light, Baby!
It began (in hindsight) auspiciously yesterday when I heard the end of the third movement of Robert Schumann's Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major, Op. 47. This is a popular piece but for some reason I have heard it only a few times in my life and most were recent. Maybe I just became aware of it in the past few years, but I doubt it. It has the ultimate sentimental romantic theme, beautiful and lyrical, and concludes with slow single piano notes being played like the individual photons of the Moon oozing to extinction. When we arrived at the restaurant, I had to deliver supplies, so I turned off the radio before the final movement, but the end of the Third rang in my mind's ear for the rest of the day.
Today is Full Moon day, but I was warned that it would probably be cloudy. It was and the Moon was invisible when I left at 4:35 a.m. But as I walked, it began to peek out and then came more fully out and I started running in my heavy boots. A few days ago when I visited her at 8:00 p.m., I was not able to get into it, and I thought my lunar enthusiasm was waning, but my quickening steps and rapid breathing belied that. (At that time in the suburbs there are still a lot of audio distractions, plus the Moon is high and often in open sky. She is much better lower on the horizon.)
I lay on the Bench in modified Lion Posture with my head resting on the armrest. It was pretty comfortable and I began to view her between my spread-apart cupped hands. Up came the Karnak Space Forest, which verified my phenomenological hunch about it. It is a contrast trance phenomenon. The hands increase the focus, cut out the skylight and emphasize the strong light of the Moon amidst the dark branches of the trees—Wham Bam, Space Ma’am! The "real" trees become black space and the "real" space becomes light matter—but light matter that looks like "real," albeit, spectralized trees. Through this cupped-hand aperture, I saw the lunar miniatures, the little Arcadian landscapes, an apparent line of branches transformed into an Elysian Field and so forth. She disappeared so I moved farther down the Bench. She went behind clouds. I went still further. Then I sat cross-legged on the ground, meditation style, with my back against the Bench and this was very good but she disappeared again and I just toppled over like a drunk off a bar stool and ended up in a semi-Lion posture but contorted with my right foot still on the ground and my right knee pointing up—not too uncomfortable but perhaps not good for the long haul. Then I saw her ooze behind a cloud and went out and when I came to the first little ditty popped in.
Then a few minutes later she again went behind a cloud and when she oozed out and down, it was so slow and exquisite, it was like a celestial drop hanging from the Faucet of the Western Sky. Then as she went closer to the horizon, I walked up to the entrance of the Grove and rested my head on a log. Again, I cupped my hands and brought up the Karnak Space Forest, now right in front of me. Keeping my hands still cupped, I went slowly up the trees, up and up as the bottom of my hands performed a wild Edge Effect.
This morning was perhaps the last clear night we'll have for a while so I definitely wanted to make this scene. As I suspected, the Moon had moved much closer to The Scooter and was just a little below and to the west of Jupiter. I didn't notice this until I left the Grove, but Spica, Jupiter, and the Moon formed a beautiful triangle that looked to me like an abstract old racing car—the kind driven by the likes of Barney Oldfield in the early 1920s. The Moon was the big, bright wheel in the back. Of course, this "constellation" is like the May Fly. It lasts one day.
As I've said before, seeing double in the woods is lots of fun. One of the reasons is that what the two eyes see can be rather different. That's not true under normal circumstances but in the woods the presence of branches and foliage make for different binocular viewpoints. Unless I think about it, I'm usually unaware that I'm seeing double because they are different. It's kind of like a cubist painting that gives the viewer several points of view of the same object. It also introduces the "illusion" of time. The right eye sees a scene and compares it with the left. "They're different but it looks like that's the same branch but it's not quite the same and in a different spot. I must be seeing it as it grows or moves before my eyes." And then there are all the great musical synchronicities that can happen when right and left aspects pop and ooze off and on. Haydn wrote the "Surprise Symphony" but there are a lot more surprises in the morning sky!
One Moon shakes the sky
the other soothes the ocean
while geese cross between
It was a clear morning and with only three or four more days to go until New Moon (in other words No Moon), I wasn't sure what I could see of her but I was hopeful. But no Crescent hung low in the southeastern sky when I walked to the Grove but the Scooter, the Dipper, Vega and the other High Lumens were up and so I lay on the Bench and also on the ground and gazed. Lining up and seeing star patterns through the leaves and branches is better for me than looking at them straight on. Holly's leaves seem to make visible an imaginary gravitational field that holds all these orbs together. That becomes even clearer when I move my head or eyes around trying to achieve or maintain a pattern. Holly unifies the sky for me.
About forty-five minutes later I again looked for the Moon but could not see her so I decided to leave early in hopes I could catch up with her on the path or perhaps on Mt. Reston where I believed she might be hiding out. As I neared the basketball court, I got a glimpse of Her Crescentness hanging coyly just above the tree line in the Southeast. She looked almost as good as she did when she conjoined with Venus and Jupiter last November in the famous Enlightenment Constellation. "Baby, you convex me!" was my thought as I looked at her large glowing shape. But then she was gone as soon as I rounded a corner and sunk lower into the floor of the stream valley.
My only hope now was Mt. Reston. I picked up my pace and soon had lost whatever cool I had in my rush to see her. As I crossed the street I saw her again and then knew that I would be able to join her while hanging from the ridge of Mt. Reston. I ran across the street and started hustling through the still darkish woods when I remembered a public radio program I had heard yesterday about artists who take risks for their art and decided I had better be a little more careful. I found one of my favorite spots and inverted and then saw her for the first time upside down from the steep ridge. I had never hung so ecstatically before and she wasn't even doing much oozing, although she did hide behind a branch or two just to tease me. It was just the act of getting proprioceptively ambiguous in an even more disorienting way that did it for me. I could have been floating in space for all I knew. What will she be like when she has her full panoply of foliage to play with?
Then I thought about the lake and how great she might look there. I was torn. Should I stay or go? I went, running breathlessly most the way in my heavy boots. And there she was hanging low and right in the center of the lake. I inverted. The Moons, the water line, and the imagined perfectly positioned spatial quadrants took hold and then a line of doubled geese crossed in front and unified the whole scene. My Kingdom for a camera!
Eros in the Woods—3/9/05
Space Trees rising up
with bark curving in and out
shapes feminine folds
Not an illusion
but trance darkening of space
eros in the woods
I lay on my side on the Bench in the reverse direction with an oblique view of the trees. I looked at Holly's leaves and space leaves as they shimmered in the ambient light darkness. Stars of the Dipper oozed in and out among her finely woven foliage, the entranced scene darkened and up came conjoining space trees describing an undulating cavity, culminating in the most provocative image yet experienced. If you had been there, you would have seen it too. It wasn't projection at all, although it might take a little (just a little) imagination, but the shape space and matter assumed in that position and under that slightly altered state.
This morning I looked at the window and saw clouds scudding and clear patches appearing and then a brightness low in the South. It was the beautiful Crescent so off I went lickety-split and sat in the Ream of the Pines. I fell almost immediately into the zone, so I checked in with my breath and it was almost imperceptibly light. Maybe twelve or thirteen per minute, which is not especially slow, but with just very small even-rhythmed ins and outs. I approximate that after thirty minutes of meditating during a good session or when I begin in the very early morning. Sitting at the computer, I can do that for a while, but then I need more air. With the Moon I breathe an hour that way. She built a bigger Space Forest for me today in this much more open environment, but it didn’t last long. Today the best part was watching as she oozed past pine needles perhaps a hundred yards in the distance. It seemed I was seeing individual needles! No way with my 20/40 can I do that under ordinary circumstances, but the Moon has her ways. When the Moon is in the trees and leaves, it actually appears she is breathing as she moves— sometimes evenly, but mostly at different rates like a Yogi experimenting with different prana breathing techniques. Then the Moon seems alive with breath.
On the Cusp of the Crescent—4/4/05
Let's imagine that the Pali chroniclers of Buddha's Enlightenment and his transmission of the Dharma "outside of words and patterns" to Makakashyapa left out an important element. After Shakyamuni defeated Mara's illusions and temptations, he looked up in the predawn light and saw Venus, the Morning Star, shining through the leaves of the Bodhi Tree. He watched as she oozed between the leaves undergoing metamorphoses that only the soon-to-be Enlightened One could understand and then she slowly began to disappear and when the last photon had slipped behind the Bodhi Tree, a roseate vortex appeared that grew and grew until it enveloped the whole sky. Shakyamuni smiled and The Buddha was born. Many years later when the assembled monks were waiting for the Enlightened One's sermon, they watched as he picked up a flower and twirled it between his fingers. All were puzzled, except Makakashyapa who smiled when he too recognized the roseate vortex in the Buddha's hand. Whereupon the Buddha named him as his successor in the teaching "outside of words and patterns."
Yes, I know—"Just maya imagination," as the singer sang, and nothing more. This morning it was clear for the first time in more than a week. When I left the stars were out and the Moon was not visible, but I knew that she would eventually be rising over Mt. Reston. I lay on the Bench and looked at the Scooter. Towards the end, I looked up and saw the tiniest dot of Arcturus shining through Holly and when that flicked out, the vortex appeared and immediately thereafter one of the biggest, darkest, most looming Space Forests yet seen. In the flick of an eye—funny how that works!
Another interesting thing is how peripheral vision works in the arboreal night sky. I will turn away after a star has "disappeared" and then see a light out of the side of my eye and turn back. It's not there, but then a few seconds later the star returns. Under these conditions peripheral vision is anticipatory. I don't know exactly how this works, but, of course, seeing peripherally was always very important in the millions of years when humanoids were food for wild beasts. It's magical, though, just like the "compressed higher illumination" that seems to shine from behind in a forest trance.
I wanted to stay longer but I knew it was time to get going to Mt. Reston. Crossing the street, I saw the Crescent just above the ridge. I tried to make myself go slowly on the rocky path because it was more than an hour before sunrise. When I reached my spot, she was wedged between two trees and it was a little difficult seeing her there; but, for the first time, I did see the semi-starry vault from the inverted perspective, which has whetted my appetite for more. I could wait to see where else she might go or proceed to the Lake where I knew she would be looking good. I wished I had a quantum-entangled partner so that we could be in both places at the same time. I decided to hurry to the lake and there they were, not right in the middle as last cycle, but to my left (or right when inverted), still looking fine. The waters were calm but there were quiet ripples, which moved the Moon more than the house lights. I'm not sure why. Upside down the rippled Moon was on top and the double and tripled Moon, which looked like the shelled roof of the Sydney Opera House on the bottom. That's what happens when double/triple vision slices off portions of the Lunar Lemon. And it was pretty funny too!
Sitting upright afterwards, I saw her become a marsupial, continuing in an Aussie vein, as it seemed that a little baby Moon slid down the arc of the Crescent to rest in its base, only to do it all over again and again. Aussies generally have a good sense of humor, for this was very funny too, even if it was only an afterimage, an aftereffect of entranced staring. When I left, I tarried briefly on the top of the embankment and saw the purple water, the pink, silver, and light blue dawn, the Moon and its strange earthlight darker than the sky, and its reflection, now a rather formless rectangle.
As I started to walk, she began to accompany me, her concavity leading the way, bopping and bouncing through the branches like a hungry chick with its beak fully agape or maybe a very talkative exuberant friend with his mouth suddenly frozen wide open. She really looked nice as I crossed a street and so I backtracked and walked repeatedly back and forth until I thought I might be drawing attention, even at 6:30 a.m.
Scoot to the Scooter—4/5/05
On Wings of Song
Scoot to the Scooter
and wing to the Moon
say good-bye to the Scooter
but auf wiedersehen to the Moon
Again I went to the Realm of the Pines and sat down in the path and admired the ethereal portals and the stars circling the still bare branches. I was hardly breathing at all, my chest barely rising and falling. Earlier in meditation, I had fallen into this state and wondered if I might be depriving my brain of oxygen but realized it would let me know if I were. I paid my respects to the Grove but passed by and walked to Mt. Reston where I hoped for another lunar encounter.
She was there all right, a little to the left of yesterday's location but still somewhat hard to see behind the back ridge. I departed, and as I crossed over to the sidewalk fronting my first view of the lake, I saw the Crescent on my right above Mt. Reston, while to my left, completely dominating the sky over the lake, was the Scooter, which due to Jupiter's wandering has become even more Euclidean with the King of the Gods forming a near perfect 90 degree angle with Spica and Arcturus. Next to "The Great Celestial Arch," which I now realize does not depend on Saturn for its existence, it is the biggest "constellation" in the sky, but it does depend on Jupiter and will soon sadly disappear from my early morning viewing.
So off I hurried to see how they would look at the first dock. There was Jupiter just above and anti-Jupiter just below the rectangular embankment—both ready to disappear. Here was my first chance to see a reflected orb ooze away. I inverted and watched it eeze instead and then as I waited for Jupiter himself to go, I heard a noise and realized some geese were coming from the shallows behind me. It was still dark and my inverted form must have surprised them for they suddenly started splashing and honking, splashing and honking and making all kinds of interesting antiphonal racket until finally quieting down after having wet my face, which I took as a blessing from them that made me laugh in astonishment.
Then as Jupiter got even closer to the top of the bank an early morning walker flicked through him, creating my first human and orb musical interaction. Finally, Jupiter also eezed away. I turned my attention to the Moon, which was rising above the new "luxury" townhouses. Her reflection wavered while still retaining its form. She was right above and below the beautiful soft orange and brown light that illuminates the symmetrical "face" of the mirrored facade of the buildings. She was another light to them. Then when I left, her concavity escorted me to the other shore.
Must Be the Angle—4/6/05
This morning the sky was hazy but the bright lumens of the Scooter managed to shine through. I sat upright on the Bench and commenced to ooze whichever was out and about from Holly at the time. Jupiter was there and soon became a squiggly Feynman Diagram. Suddenly a Big Close Dark Beautiful Looming Space Forest arose. Jupiter popped out, instantly followed by Spica popping in and through a Space Tree. This was a truly heavenly counterpoint—only two notes (poppop) but two notes perfectly placed can be better than a whole symphony! Then Jupiter came back, also shining through a Space Tree and up above I could peripherally see Arcturus also joining in. There it was—the great Constellation of the Scooter shining through a magnificent Space Forest. But "shining through" doesn't quite do it justice. The orbs are shining through, of course, but they also seem to be shining from the outer bark of the "trees," which puts them very close to me. And then as I looked at Spica, she seemed so much closer to Jupiter than usual. In fact we all seemed more intimate—"it must be the angle."
Particle by day
wave by night that’s how she acts
when hiding from view
When I got to the first dock at about 6:15 a.m. there was a light mist on the lake which looked very nice when inverted as it seemed to move around in my visual field, but it was even better when I applied a little head twist, banking the bank, as it were, and rotating the scene into a whole new view. When you're already proprioceptively funky, small movements can have a bigger effect. Then I lay down on the dock and prepared to do some stomach crunches and noticed a star above. I searched the sky and it was the only one there. It was Vega, who earlier, along with Holly, had brought up a looming Redwood Space Forest for me. Now she was the last star left standing in the last half-hour before sunrise.
I could not remember ever looking at the sky when only one star was shining wanly. Here was my chance to see the final passing of the night. I looked at her for a little while and then checked the time on my cell phone—6:24—and then looked back and she was gone! "She went just like that and I missed her, blankety blank!" I continued to lie and must have turned my eyes or head because I saw her again. One star left in the predawn dark blue can get lost quickly so I realized I had to hold on tight. This set in motion a light trance and although the sky was perfectly clear, a circular vortex surrounded by light "clouds" appeared in which Vega "migrated," usually bouncing around its periphery. I held onto the reins and did not let her out of my sight again. She grew fainter and the vortex grew smaller and seemed to close, while Vega rubbed closely against its margin. Then she became a single pixel and as she crossed the liminal barrier to extinction, she disappeared at exactly 6:35 a.m., ten minutes before sunrise. In its own way this was as fascinating as a good stellar ooze, especially when the last pixel appeared, which must be the smallest distant particle a 20/40 pair of eyes can see. According to Kenny, hunters in their all-night hunting stands are familiar with this phenomenon.
When I got home, I opened the paper and the first article I read was about near earth asteroids and a large one in particular, capable of obliterating "Texas or a few European countries" that will pass within 25,000 miles of the earth in 2029. Someday we too could cross our own liminal barrier.
Viva La Vega—4/10/05
I was interested in investigating further the sunlight death of stars, but first I went to the Grove and spent some time with the Scooter and Vega up in her perch in a holly oculus—a sure fire germinator of Redwood Space Forests. It was very interesting to observe how the "eastern portal" goes from being a recessed space, which it "really" is, to a kind of indented aspect of a big "redwood" and stays that way for ten or fifteen minutes without any extra effort on my part. These really are wondrous strange optical illusions. I look forward to what the fully leafed trees will bring in three or four weeks.
I checked the time because I wanted to arrive at the dock a little earlier than yesterday when only Vega was still standing. Today I arrived at 6:08 a.m. and there was Arcturus (“Guardian of the Bear”) in the southwest, Vega above me, Altair beyond her (both are members with Deneb of the "Summer Triangle"), and on the southern horizon I also saw what I think is the romantically-named star, Fomalhaut. I also thought I was seeing a lesser lumen next to Altair—the Anne Francis character in Forbidden Planet had the great name of Altaira—but couldn't be absolutely sure it wasn't a photism, although I later verified it is a star. It and Fomalhaut were soon out.
By 6:16 Altair was gone so that left Arcturus and Vega to light it out for the Orion Belt Championship of longest lasting spring star. Looking at them, it seemed that Arcturus was just a bit brighter. "Could there be a reversal of yesterday's fortune?" I thought. "Things shouldn't work that way with a physical phenomenon like this." What I had temporarily forgotten is that Arcturus is midway in the western sky now and gets more sunrise light than Vega up top. I looked at them back and forth—up for Vega, down for Arcturus—and soon got into automatic tick tock rhythm, which was a good way to keep these bleaching orbs in view. As the minutes passed, I had to increase my head and neck movements so that I could focus more directly on the disappearing dots and there was a longer delay between the tick or tock and seeing the star again. Both were holding out equally and it seemed the contest would go down to the wire, but then I noticed the light in the West and at 6:24 Arcturus, who initially had looked to be the stronger of the two, went down for the final count by simply evaporating—no pixel, no pop.
With all my attention now on Vega, I watched a little vortex around her but that soon disappeared and was replaced by trance "clouds" that moved around and over her. And then at 6:30 it happened—a cloud passed over Vega and she never came out, which was different from yesterday's pixelated demise. A non-trancing camera would probably record the event with less variation. Having done this the last two days I think will make me more aware during daylight walks that the stars are still up there and that I can tune into them with a little imagination.
I spent only a short time in the Grove this morning, frustrated that I couldn't get a good bead on Jupiter who is getting closer to his (and my) event horizon. Besides I wanted to get to the dock again, but earlier, so I could continue my "research" into Event Horizons of sunrise star death.
It's funny how when one becomes interested in something things always pop up that to relate to it. Yesterday the Post had a brief science article about historians who are now wondering whether Galileo got the idea that motion cannot be perceived without visual cues from a passage in Dante's Inferno in which the poet falls senseless through a hole in hell. Today, as I passed my first view of Lake Audubon I saw Jupiter and the Scooter over it and anti-Jupiter reflected in it. As I walked by with my eyes on them, I noticed that anti-Jupiter (the reflection) appeared to be moving much more than Jupiter. "How could this be?" And then that little article popped into mind. Anti-Jupiter lies below the reflection of the bank and houses whereas Jupiter himself seems to be more alone in the sky. It is more difficult to see him in conjunction with the houses below him. In other words, there are more visual cues for reflected anti-Jupiter and so he seems to have more movement. (Nice try, but upon later reflection, I realized this perceived movement occurs because of the way a mirroring surface works. At least Dante got me thinking.)
When I got to the first dock, it was almost an hour before sunrise and still rather dark. Jupiter and anti-Jupiter were closing in on the top of the embankment and ready to disappear. I inverted and within seconds anti-Jupiter's little wave of ripples just washed behind the bank and he was gone. Jupiter still had life and I inverted again. It was dark so he was able to do a little oozing, squishing and squiggling and then went out. I raised my head just a little and repeated the event. Then again lying the on the dock in Lion Posture, sitting up, on my knees, and finally standing. All of this took only a few brief minutes and that must have been because of the angle at which I was viewing him. I can't put the geometry into words but had I been on a level plane with him, he would have lasted longer. So it was one after another almost. But on each occasion just as he oozed out, a large band of darkness would cover the bank below, which is similar to what happens in the woods. So it is the normal consequence, for me at least, of a trancedental ooze.
Then I settled in to watch the battle for starlight supremacy, thinking that I knew the outcome but expecting the process to be a little different. Nearly thirty minutes before I thought the final plug would be pulled, I started tick tocking back and forth between Arcturus and Vega. At first my eyes were following an arc between the two but then settled into a linear path. I'm not sure why. Vega was right above and Arcturus below and a little to my right so at first an arc seemed to fit their positions in the sky and the shape of the "vault" itself. Maybe I needed to get into a groove first before I could go strictly linear. So back and forth I went and then I thought I would check in on Altair and discovered that I had probably given up on her prematurely two days ago. She was there at 6:12 as a small dot and so she remained for what must have been several more minutes. I switched back to Arcturus, but to my surprise he was gone already, so today the foregone contest was between Altair, the lesser of the two lumens, and Vega. Sensing her doom approaching, Altair started scurrying around and around in circles with trance clouds in pursuit, occasionally pausing for breath and then resuming her mad dash for continued existence. The clouds caught up and she was surrounded in a vortex, which began to rotate on its axis and as it began to envelop her I thought she was done for, but no, she miraculously popped out like a rugby player from a scrum, and held fast for a minute or two longer before final succumbing behind a cloud. Vega was now the only one left
but she was pursuing a new survival strategy today. Her orb or circle had lengthened into a little line as if she were playing a part in a String Theory performance and this seemed to help her last longer than two days ago, disappearing at 6:27 which is relatively earlier than the 6:30 of two days ago because of the five minute earlier sunrise. As clouds passed over, they turned into a vortex, which broke up becoming a dense flock of starlings or maybe bats at sunrise, leaving Vega as a diminishing string in the void. Then her two dimensions became one and she too was gone.
Three days, three different deaths. But there's a fly in this phenomenological vortex. The sky was perfectly clear the first two days but today there was a sprinkle of light clouds that might have taken Arcturus before his time and extended the lives of Altair and Vega. I'll never know. But who cares when you're having stellar fun!
This predawn morning as I inverted over the lake, I looked carefully when two geese flew towards and over me and then as I looked back down the lake, I saw swirling noir pixels form into a tight flock of "starlings" and come closer, closer like something out of The Birds maybe (did Tippi or Rod ever invert in that movie?), until they spun counterclockwise a few feet in front of me like a little tornado. I reached out but as I did so the shy critters receded from my outstretched hands and vanished. I looked again and this time even without the geese's prompting, they came towards me. I think this is a normal but rarely noticed low-light visual phenomenon that I am more aware of because of my starlight gazing, and it's very amusing and entrancing to boot—a makyo event right up there with Space Forests and Space Leaf Spangled Black Skies.
The Battle for Starlight Supremacy is now officially over for the next several months with Vega holding a 3 to 0 lead over Arcturus. The sun has risen to a point where I found it difficult and then impossible to watch their final seconds so they died without my noticing it. When Sirius is up in the morning, she'll take on a star a month, just as Joe Louis did when he went on his "Bum a Month" tour, and beat them all unless she's too close to the horizon.
The Spinning Devas of Dawn—4/16/05
I think I have a woodland replacement for the rapidly disappearing Scooter. It's the "Summer Triangle" of Vega, Altair, and Deneb, and from my sky chart it seems to be one of the biggest named constellations in the sky. It is about the same size as the ephemeral Scooter but not even half as big as the permanent Great Celestial Arch.
For the last couple of days (we're having great clear spring weather), I have lain down off the path near the Realm of the Pines and not gone to the Grove. The Triangle disports almost right above me, and as it moves I think it will be in positions where it will have both leaves and spaces to play in. I watch as the three stars move in and out in the trees, which still just have leafettes. This morning Vega must have been in a denser area because she was out much of the time.
Recently here and other places I have been practicing another visual technique. Trying to become more panoptic with more imagination for movement, I move my eyeballs around counterclockwise, which is my natural inclination, but occasionally clockwise also. Around and around I go, seeing from the back of my head if I could, and then when I stop, the rhythm continues on its own for a while and then I go into a very light trance.
Eventually Vega came back and I started to zone out on her photonic machinations. She oozed, disappeared, became a russet vortex, and then up came a few huge translucent Space Trees, or maybe they should be called cathedral window trees. White clouds rolled across the top of the vault and I was surprised because "where had they come from" until I realized it was part of the "vision." What I was looking at was right before me and it was mostly space so there was no chance of a dense Space Forest growing there, only beautiful, ethereal, translucent cathedral window Space Trees. And they don't last very long at all, but they are a sight to behold.
I got to the lake ten minutes earlier than yesterday and the starlight contenders were already gone, which showed me that the relationship between sunrise and star "death" is not an arithmetic one. For a while, it seemed to be, but the light eventually reaches a point where that all changes. At about fifteen minutes before sunrise, I inverted and looked down the lake where the little flock of "starlings" coalesced into a spinning counterclockwise vortex, coming closer and closer, and this time it didn't stop when I stretched out my hands but approached them, circling and circling like a child's toy or tiny two-dimensional diaphanous alien craft, and then spun away, all of these movements too being in a counterclockwise direction. Photism, optical illusion, vortexism, or the Whirling Devas of Dawn—whatever it was, it was a wild and riotous ride. I hope they come again!
Putting an Angel in the Head—4/18/05
For the first time in days there were some clouds in the sky when I went to the woods after enjoying the first eight-hour sleep I've had in months. I woke up late and scurried to get to the Realm of the Pines, where I lay down just in time to see the stars being covered up. But after a few minutes I saw Deneb peaking out and then out of the corner of my eye a peripheral epiphany—Vega had also popped out but the clouds were still there and she was in the trees so she was flickering like a hot "excited" atom, emitting high-frequency and energy music that I could sense but the Dog Star could undoubtedly have clearly heard if she had not already dropped below the horizon.
In this spot, I also very much enjoy arching my head and looking behind me to an unreal world that seems both two- and three-dimensional at the same time. While there I also verified that, given low light and the right background, I automatically see a little spinning vortex if I look at a spot for more than a few seconds. It is not a trance but just the way my vision works, and I'll bet it works that way for many other people as well. They just haven't noticed yet. It could almost be a little drill bit twirling away trying to unearth a hidden vein of visual gold. It probably works subliminally like that in brighter light even though I can't "see" it.
When I got to the lake, I inverted (lake and inversion are almost synonymous, aren't they?) and decided to look for the vortex again, but I didn't even have to try because when a goose flew down the causeway, I knew it would be coming back the other way. The pixelated starlings formed up, coalesced, and then spun towards me, disappearing, however, in the shadow of the bank before reaching me—too light probably. When I raised myself up, my visual field was wildly fluttering (hadn't noticed that before) and then died down after about thirty seconds or so. I think this is caused by a combination of blood-to-the-brain hanging and the vortexing "illusion."
Then for the first time in many months I saw an older man walking above me on the embankment and I inverted again to watch his relatively slow progress across. Here is a different take on why I especially like doing this. As the arms and legs go graceful and loosey-goosey, it appears that any person, young or old, could suddenly break into a Moon Walk or do a Ray Bolger flop-around if he or she wanted. Maybe I was turned on to this because last night I watched a nature show on TV that showed footage of the wildest moon walking bird I have ever seen—in fact, perhaps the wildest piece of wildlife footage I've ever seen. Shirley too had to laugh at the trompe l'oeil speed and deceptiveness of this little Sumatran deep-jungle creature trying to win the heart of a female. I think I mentioned before that Pablo Picasso once said of Marc Chagall, after seeing his paintings with their ecstatic floating and flying people, that he had "an angel in his head." Chagall, I'm sure, was born with an angel in his head, but I think inverting is one way of slowly growing one in your head.
Then I inverted again over the other side of the dock and remarked to myself: "Wow, the lake seems really clear and transparent today” until I remembered I was looking at the sky itself. Sometimes one can get deliciously disoriented this way especially if the reflection is also clear and placid. Then I climbed the bank and looked at both it and the sky a few minutes before sunrise. It was like losing oneself in a giant split-screen reality, solid bank and light baby blue sky of great depth/no depth. Contrasts can often work that way.
As the leaves grow, the ratio of matter to energy and dark to light gradually shifts towards the former of the two pairs (I speak only in visual terms, of course.) I thought this was the kind of night soil needed for the further growing of space trees, and so it was, at least for today. I lay down in the duff in the Realm of the Pines and looked for the members of the Summer Triangle. With more leaves on the trees, they're a little more elusive. I saw Vega and Altair but instead of looking at them separately, I tried to keep them both in view panoptically, which meant I couldn't focus on either. This set in motion a little trance. The "cathedral spaces" between the trees in front of me seemed actually to have acquired glass and the stars spangled in a dark region way beyond where they usually appear to be. The glass frosted and then glazed over, becoming darker until spacematter materialized and the biggest space tree yet grown towered before me, as wide as the widest redwood, and then it disappeared almost as rapidly as the first sustained nuclear reaction in the basement of the former Stagg Stadium at the University of Chicago, my alma mater. So what if it was as real as a mirage or as ephemeral as a puff of smoke? It was still entrancing, interesting, and fun.
Another wild and woolly day in the woods and lakes of Reston. Quickly recovering from my little disappointment, I again went to the Realm of the Pines and lay down. I was watching the Summer Triangle do its thing for several minutes and then got caught up in looking through a hole in some leaves right above my head and then peripherally at Vega up top. This put me in a zone and it darkened and darkened until the whole scene in front of me became one vision-spanning space tree. But I thought, "No, this is too big for a tree. In fact this looks like the cliffs of Mesa Verde." I half expected (well, maybe not quite half) to see Anasazi cliff dwellings up there. I didn't see any but this sight stuck around for maybe a minute, a lot longer and a lot bigger than yesterday's space tree. I didn't think this was possible in an environment where there is so much more space than matter. The tops of the trees are leafing out but the lower parts are bare and open and still turned into "cliffs". But this perception apparently requires a lot of energy, on the part of both the environment and me, so I could only do it once. Perhaps when there are even more leaves, I'll see more. Soon Vega moved into an opening in the sky and I raised my arms up in salute and then as I brought them down, I put my fingers together, forming a little inch diameter aperture a foot or so from my eyes and proceeded to look at her. After a few seconds of staring, only an awareness of Vega and her immediate surroundings in the aperture remained and that scene darkened becoming a deep space brownred. It looks like a star being oozed by a leaf but, of course, it is not oozed because there is no edge unless I move my hand but that doesn't work quite like a leaf. I continued looking for a minute or so and then when I released my hands, it was as if a divine flashlight were shining in my eyes without hurting them but only exciting wonder and awe. This was another faux "higher illumination," and what made it even better was that the trees around had gone dark so there was a great contrast between Vega seemingly glowing like a full Moon but with the shape of a chevron (the shape of my fingers, I now realize) and the darkness around it. Even when the spell began to lift and the trees to reappear, Vega's light seemed to stream down to me. I did this several times, but decided that in the future, it might be a good idea to ration this experience, even if it is only an "illusion." It seems that it is done best in this kind of environment in which a star is an open area surrounded by trees. When I got to the lake, it was a little earlier than usual. I inverted and saw to my delight a contrail bisecting the sky below me, and then because it was also a little darker than usual, I experienced some afterimages and they, including the original contrail, all looked like a flotilla of warships steaming their way to a battle, perhaps the Battle of Leyte Gulf where the American Navy pretty much destroyed what was left of the Japanese Navy. I'm not usually a warlike visualizer, but this was too good not to evoke a surprised chuckle.
Then I remembered the Whirling Devas of Dawn and so I looked for my spinning vortex. One started coming towards me, approaching very closely, almost as if it were willing to spin on my outstretched fingertip, but then shot away like a spooked UFO, doubled back and then vanished. Then I tried another one and it came slowly and directly. This time it looked like I just might "touch" it. There it was spinning maybe a foot from my outstretched finger. I felt like that painting in the Sistine Chapel, except I wasn't Adam and the vortex wasn't you-know-who, not even a whirlwind. It came even closer, within inches, and then started bouncing back and forth as if teasing me and just as I thought I would reach it, it vaporized. This was worth a hearty laugh or two.
I went for my usual walk this morning even though I have the beginnings of a light cold. It was cloudy so nothing much happened, but I was able to clarify the reason for one type of low-light eye-trickery, however. Last November I wrote a little story that involved a cloudbank ascending behind some trees and looking like a white canvas tent and then being confused when I looked up to see the “Big Top” and realized it was the open sky. During the day, the clear sky is brighter than the clouds, but during a suburban night, even one as light controlled as in Reston, that is reversed. When a bank of clouds rolls in, they catch the ambient light and considerably outshine the clear patches of open sky. (Perhaps it even works that way in a real no-light environment but I just don't know.) That temporarily confuses the mind, which mistakes the clear sky for very dark clouds, as I did this morning. I did the same when I looked up at the Big Top and must have thought it was a dark cloud until I saw a star or two and laughed in awe and amazement at how neat it was to be confused that way.