November 17th, 2002

caillebotte_man at his window

This Happens, Once in a While

I believe it was Mozart who said that certain notes in a piece of music are more important than others. In aesthetics, certain proportions are more profound than others. Visually or aurally, some things have a resonance which somehow fits something in our consciousness, the way certain chemicals fit receptors in our brains. When I stepped out my door at three o'clock this morning, I walked into one of those scenes which makes that sort of connection. I think we spend most of our time somewhat detached from our surroundings. It takes a special moment to re-connect us.

The moon had settled to a point between the tops of two pine trees. The sky was rough with clouds, dark masses shot through with pale silver. This time of night, this night of the year, the nearly-full moon is slightly flattened at the top, and the unseen crescent suggests an approaching ripeness, a fulfillment of aspiration, like a piece of music about to reach a climax. Amid the complex and shifting shapes of the clouds over which its light plays, painterly and of unstable mood, the moon, if as yet incomplete, yet suggests the perfection of its rounded self, and the sky undergoes a strange reversal. The insubstantial clouds give the impression of weight and mass, while the moon floats as lightly as the scent of pines in the air. The pines, themselves, complete a triumvirate of forms. Their aspiring upper boughs and startled clumps of fine needles, black against the moonlit clouds, articulate earth's energy, and that of the air through which the clouds float, and that of the water which the clouds carry, and that of the unseen sun, in whose reflected light their silhouettes are now revealed.

For a moment, before earth's turning rolled the trees up to veil the moon, the scene was held in a timeless balance, as though I were observing a frozen moment in a dance, on the verge of some profound revelation. I was suddenly aware that it was only from that particular spot, at that particular moment, that those elements could have been seen, exactly as I had sen them. In that moment, I sensed all time and space, all growth and decay, all change, the life of ancient rocks as an instant, and the fluttering of a mayfly as an eternity, and was aware of all this perception as transient electrical impulses firing through my brain. like whirling galaxies recapitulating cosmic ages in a fraction of a heartbeat.

When I took another breath of the cool night air, I felt hungry. I went into the house and cut a slice of ripe cantaloupe. It tasted much better than usual. Things always do, after something of this sort happens. Later, I went out again, and the moon had set, and the clouds had vanished and been replaced by the glittering stars. I expect that I'll sleep well.
caillebotte_man at his window

Sunday Night

The days have grown sufficiently chilly, that many local residents whose dwellings lack more modern heating are firing up their wood stoves and fireplaces. Clouds of smoke curl from chimneys and the scent of it drifts along the leaf-strewn streets. In the field of brown grass near the edge of the oak wood, gold in the afternoon light, I saw a group of children playing in a now-leafless tree, and heard their voices vanishing into a sky covered with cloud the color of brushed aluminum seen through a thin layer of watery milk. Along a path where my footsteps were muffled by the dense, springy layer of pine needles, I listened to the squirrels barking in the trees. In a yard on the last street at the edge of town, I saw an odd site. It is a young maple tree, a few of its leaves turning yellow, but the rest of them still as green as they were in spring. Surrounded by the tatters of autumn, this one tree, of all its kind, seems unwilling to let the summer go. I wonder how long it will be able to hold out?

Tonight, I'm hoping that the deer will come up the street early, while the moon is still in the east. Recently, they have come by late, when the light has already left the far side of the street in shadow, and the brightness falling on my face dazzles my eyes. At that hour, I can hear their faint hooves, but their soft grey shapes are merely a suggestion of movement in the night. Soon, all the flowers will be gone for the winter, and the visits of the deer will become less frequent. I'm expecting them to raid the bed of pansies along my driveway sometime in the next few nights. I hope they don't sneak by when I'm not looking.