One night I climb the tree late. I am just home from chorus rehearsal in Bridgewater. It is a clear night with just the memory of light clinging to the horizon: a dark blue line fading quickly into the black of the sky above. There are stars everywhere. As I cross the lawn and approach the tree I look up at its canopy and see that the tree has changed. What was once an impenetrable black silhouette against the stars is now riddled with them. Enough leaves have fallen during the day that the tree is now like an aura in the night, a spiritual body that can be looked through to the starry sky behind. In losing it has gained; it has traded leaves for stars.
From inside the tree the change is even more apparent: what was once a secret enclosure has opened out. I am in the tree, in the night, in the sky.
When I next climb by day (and it may have been days later—in summer and fall I often wait until twilight or darkness to climb, for the sheer pleasure of it) I see that not only have leaves begun falling, but those left on the tree have curled and shriveled, reducing their profile. After weeks of temperatures in the 80s and higher, what is left is a kind of crumpled brownish-green filigree against the sky.
Emme has been spending more time in the tree even than me in recent days, and both she and Claire have come into the tree with me at night. They are remarkably comfortable climbing high in the dark. All week the moon has been growing brighter, and with the tree more open now its top fills with a whitish light. The fields and wooded hillsides are burnished silver. The temperatures have finally dropped, and beautiful sunny days in the 60s resolve into nights that are clear and cold.
A brilliant moon on a cold night sets one thrumming to ancient reverberations—all the more so when you are up in the treetops. It awakens a hunger and an exhilaration that are hard to describe. One is lonely and replete at the same time.
We climb frequently and wait for the full moon.
It comes on Thursday. Late in the evening we turn out the lights in the house and go out into the night. We cross the silver lawn to the darkness of the woods. We enter the tree and climb up towards the light. The moon is low so even the top of the tree is dark, but the hills and meadow all around are bathed in a pale silver-green light. There are few stars in the coldly luminous sky. All things that are dark glow. We spend a while clustered near the upper prayer flags, then descend, a sequence of shadowy figures dropping down through shadowy branches.