September 25th, 2002

caillebotte_man at his window

Moonlight and Shadows.

Now, the steady north breeze brings dry air down the ridge each night, and the pines sing with it. A few desiccated leaves fall rustling from the oaks and skitter along the moon-washed pavement. The light frosts patches of gravel and pale rooftops, as well, like a premonition of winter. In the late hours of the night, I hear lumber trucks laboring up the main road across town. In the afternoon, they will return, each carrying a half dozen or so immense pine logs to the lumber mills in the valley. The logs will be cut into lumber with which houses such as those on my street will be built. Next year, the moonlight will fall on those houses, making straight-edged shadows such as those I see around me tonight.

I suddenly think how, for ages, the shadows cast on earth were seldom so straight. Even the shadows cast by the straight trunks of trees whose branches began high up were made rough by the variegation of the bark. I suppose that a few stones that had split along straight lines like crystals might have cast straight shadows, but such stones of great size are rare. Straight shadows only began to proliferate when humans began building geometrically regular structures. Temples and the pyramids must have been the first such structures. Over a few thousand years, straight lines have spread everywhere. Now, their straight shadows spread across the earth, as though the set work of humanity was to make the small world of the crystals large, to give the entire surface of the planet a crystalline form.

The westering moon casts its light further up the front of my house, and I note the shadow of the eaves cast across the facade, and how, on the south facing wall of the garage, where it projects a few feet out from the house, that shadow rises at an angle, and stair-steps a bit where it crosses the individual boards of the siding, each of which casts its own thin shadow onto its lower neighbor. I note the edges of the driveway, and how they are broken here and there by the variegated shadows of plants and trees. I see the walk, running in a diagonal line across the lawn, from the driveway to the front porch. The brick pavement of the stairs and porch is divided into a grid by the paler lines of grout between the oblong bricks. Across this moonlit grid there is splashed the intricate shadow of the leaves of the mulberry tree. There is something very pleasing about the contrast. I think that our innate aesthetic sense is drawn to crystalline forms, and to the infinitely varied forms strewn about the world by nature's fractals, as well. They each can create a similar pleasurable response. But I think that I like them best when they are together.