It is nearly 2 am. The hills are awash with the darkest, most ethereal light imaginable.
We drove down to Lenox, MA, this afternoon to see a production of Cymbeline at Shakespeare and Company in partial celebration of Emme’s birthday. O strangest of plays! One of Shakespeare’s last, it shifts and turns from moment to moment, metamorphosizing in tone and genre sometimes within a single scene. A tragical-comical-historical-pastoral-political romance, Tony Tanner calls it in his excellent Prefaces to Shakespeare. Throw in military and mystical and you just about have it. It was a terrific production of a perplexing play we had never seen before, and we left exhilarated. After an interminable, caffeine-laced three-hour drive we make it home around 1:45 am, and everyone has shuffled catatonically off to bed.
I am in the tree.
The moon is a night from full. The sky is cloudless. The heavens are vast.
It’s bright enough when I leave the house that I don’t need to pause to let my eyes adjust to the dark as usual. But I do this anyways when I reach the edge of the woods, staring through the brush toward the impenetrable darkness of the forest floor, seeing no more detail as the moments pass but sensing the world growing brighter behind me.
I leave the pale light of the lawn at my back for the darkness of the tree. The moon is about halfway between horizon and zenith, so its light is heavily filtered by a band of trees when I am in the lower branches. Patches of silver hang in the darkness, resting on scattered leaves and branches. As I rise up alongside the trunk there is more light and fewer shadows, and as I step onto my perch by the prayer flags, my head moves into full moonlight. I squint against its brightness.
The masses of the hills are densely furred with shadow, raked from the side by moonlight. The sky is nearly empty of stars, all but the very brightest washed out. There are great swaths of light across lawn and meadow—but a light, as bright as it is, not far from darkness. ‘The radiant night,’ I called it a summer ago, in one of my favorite posts about night-climbing. ‘The luminous dark,’ I think now. It is as perplexing as Cymbeline, as quick to reverse perception, as difficult to pin down.
And yet unchanging. No movement, no sound or breeze, no alteration. As steady and as ancient at the moon, the night, the hills themselves. Primordial, this world and my outpost in it.
I spend a while at the top of the tree, just standing and looking. Being part of the night.
And then to blessed bed.