By Michael Suchorsky
I love when a full moon makes it possible to walk through the woods at night. The snow-covered winter landscape, accentuated by the moon’s soft glow spreads out like a luminescent sea, calling one to investigate, to move through. On close inspection you find each ice crystal captures a reflection of the moon. Billions of moons sparkle between the feathery shadows of trees and out across the expansive fields.
This full moon coincides with New Year’s Eve, which is racing out from the international dateline. I plan to meet its transit from underneath the massive branches of my favorite oak tree. To observe the passing of the year while enveloped in the rhythms and flows of the forest. Stepping back from the 30 second commercial with 15 images accompanied by sound effects over a punchy electronic drum track. Stepping back from the murmur of a low-key cocktail party. Stepping back from my quiet house where the only sounds are the occasional hum of the refrigerator’s compressor and the soft crackling of the fire in the wood stove.
My host, willing or not, is very old, I’m guessing around 400 years. It would take three adults with arms outstretched to encircle the trunk. The oak lives halfway up the mountain from my house, overlooking the Pepacton Reservoir and facing the sun and moon as they rise over the mountains that recede layer after layer into the east.
As I walk up the mountain, the snow-covered ground pulses and shifts as if under a slow motion celestial strobe. The multi-layers of semi-transparent clouds moving past the moon create this affect of soft monochromatic blue light dancing upon the snow cover. The low temperature effect that causes ice crystals to float in the air (diamond dust) is at play tonight as well. An exquisite display—equal to the exhibits in the finest museums.
When I arrive at the oak, the air grows still and I can hear the slightest rustle of a mouse foraging in the leaves under the snow cover. At one point I hear a herd of deer moving down the mountain, their hard hooves clicking against exposed rocks as they work down the steep incline. They must have caught my scent for they veer off across the mountain before coming out into the clearing that the oak and I share.
Leaning back on the tree, I gaze through its gnarled branches upon the face of the moon. It takes 18.6 years for the moon to complete one cycle. So many animals feed and mate by the rhythm of the moon tides I wonder if the long time lines of the oak allow it to respond in some way to the full lunar cycle.
The oak was here before world wars, before cars, before the industrial revolution. The oak certainly stood above the quiet foraging of horses and cattle. Indians may have camped beneath its boughs long before anybody heard of George Washington. It was probably a sturdy good size tree during the French and Indian War and possibly a sapling when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
The oak stood before Monet, Degas, Renoir and the Impressionist movement emerged in Paris. It stood silent witness to these valleys and mountains while the genius that was Johann Sebastian Bach reached the pinnacle of baroque music. The oak continued to witness while baroque gave way to classical, Mozart and Beethoven lived and died and eventually Stravinsky, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis filled the world’s concert halls with musical thought.
Here the whine of 2-cycle engines racing back and forth beneath its branches have replaced the sounds of leather and chains pulled taught around the massive flanks of Percheron and Clydesdales hauling timber off the mountain. The horses replaced the padded sounds of Indian moccasins on the forest floor as well as the near-silent passage of mountain lions stalking deer.
From this place the oak knew skies free of pollution, witnessed new planets (satellites) in the skies that move much faster and in odd directions over the background constellations. Perhaps it can feel the changes in the atmosphere now that the electromagnetic spectrum carries our messages, while electricity buzzes down in the valley— the hum of pole transformers moving on the wind.
This tree has stood amidst change and tonight I observe the changing of the years from its vantage point. I lie back on oak, locked in the earth’s rotation living this perfect moment in time with oak, while sensing a fleeting caress of eternity.
Extending a happy New Year to all. ~