Moon Gliding Over a Time of Stillness


Moon Gliding Over a Time of Stillness

The Moon rose large over the forested far slope of the canyon, shining its cool reflected effulgence from a pastel blue evening sky down through faint high wisps of nebulous mist and into the otherwise invisible water vapor filling the air to glow with a plush soft burnished halo around that majestically floating orb of crisp ghostly luminosity bringing to sharp silhouettes the forms of branches and leaves interposed between us, as an expansive polyphony of sparkling birdsong gradually diminished toward silence as pools of darkness swelled to merge into a night stillness cored by a tunnel of clarity between that Moon’s silvery pockmarked hemispherical surface in vivid sharp relief, and and my enchanted eyes.

The myriad meshed wheels of the unimaginably vast machinery of the Heavens and of the Earth, from the astronomical to the subatomic, continue their many cycles indifferent to the stoppage of humanity’s wheels of thoughtless contention, what we call civilization, now brought up short by the collision of all our ambitions into the stark terror of an erupting plague, a pandemic of an uncontrolled, evasive and pervasive deadly virus. Many of us hide from each other hoping to avoid chance and fatal infection, and waiting fearfully hoping for the conjuring of a magical medical salvation soon, it can never be too soon. Others hide from reality burrowed into their shaky fantasies of imperviousness and longings for illusions of self-importance, angrily protesting their mandated self-incarceration from a now shattered and scattered society, an anger that is really the roiling surface of the deeply suppressed realization of being inconsequential and superfluous. And then there are those who walk through the undefined extent of the valley of death each day: to battle the virus, attend to the sick, bury the dead; or forced by the needs of their own survival to labor blindly through the pervading pestilence; or moved by a higher calling sacrificing themselves to be of service to others.

For some it is a time of being terribly tested and of exhibiting great nobility, for others of being cravenly malicious parasites taking advantage of a prostrate humanity. It is a time when the contours of authentic merit and of the foulest degradation within the usually amorphous mass of humanity are brought into the sharpest contrast by the glaring light of pandemic circumstances. It is a time when the best hold solidarity with all and affirm life, without denying and being disheartened by the indeterminate inevitability of death. It is a time to savor the great and mysterious gift of life, of consciousness along a stream of time; but in truth it was always that time, now only sparked into many minds by the viral invasion of our human meshwork of flesh, blood and behavior.

How should I conduct the uncertain continuation of my survival? In what form will humanity emerge from this winnowing, and when if ever? I suspect this pandemic is but a skirmish in a much larger and longer war against the unrelenting forces of overstimulated entropy, evolution and extinction. Human consciousness is an evanescent field of scintillating glints flashing off the rippling surface of the deep black night of nonexistence towards which our human world of tragic innocence, of blithe self-absorption and of damning hubris, inexorably drifts.

Millennialist dreamers, both romantically religious and technologically ideological, envision humanity’s future to be a unanimous transformation of attitudes and behaviors that coalesce as a new self-perpetuating good life of affluent coexistence, a hoped-for transformation of our civilization prompted by the finally awakened realization of its self-caused catastrophe of increasing inhospitability to our form of life, as well as to that of many other organisms, by this Planet Earth.

I would wholeheartedly welcome such a transformation, but I suspect such a desirable outburst of human behavioral evolution as the endpoint of our old paradigm inflecting into the gateway to an imaginary new utopia, will never occur. I expect the actual finish of our human world will be, metaphorically, as the ending of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick: The brute force of Nature stoves in our obsessive, exploitative, narcissistic, predatory collective boat and it plunges to oblivion, with Tashtego — the “native” worker whose life was a struggle for survival against extinction, by being carried along as an underling in the Great White Conquest of the Living, to Gain Wealth — climbing the sinking mainmast in a vain attempt to evade engulfment, and finally — as the last gesture possible from the Earth-connected people of his kind — nailing the American Sea Eagle bannering master-race illusions to the mast-top, so it too would vanish with those it had entranced, and those enslaved to that entrancement, to their self-imposed and necessarily collective doom.

But why give oneself over to such thoughts, even if ultimately true? One’s life will have its extent, and between its dawn and dusk spans a spectrum of opportunities to apply one’s energy and talents to the creation of beauty, dignity, truth, healing, and noble connection, all independent of fate’s hazards and happenstances. It is from each individual’s weaving of all these efforts that whatever fulfillment is possible for them will be found. And the commitment to this attitude forms the center of gravity, the stillpoint of a calmed awakened mind, of a life of balanced openness and worthy purpose though immersed in the endless uncertainties, luckless cruelties, and constant flux of unfolding existence.

The Moon has arced far across my night thoughts, dispelling my illusions of judgement and knowledge while infusing me with a wordless sense of acceptance, of trust, in just being. In this I may have finally achieved after seven decades the intrinsic wisdom of my self-assured night-ranging cats, of my feisty day-flitting hummingbirds, and of all the lovely Sun-soaked non-human life I will see and hear all along my wooded canyon when day comes. Life continues by being, not wanting. It is only our wanting that is extinguishing itself in the flood of its own excesses, and there is no necessity that we extinguish ourselves by only being our self-absorbed wanting.

A White-throated Swift twitters at the first blush of eastern light, rippling the once glassy surface of the evening silence as the cool ghostliness of moonglow fades into the dusky shadowless twilight before dawn, and a Chestnut-backed Chickadee then lilts its pulsating greeting to the day seeping up from the horizon into the sky. Goodnight Moon.


A visit to Canyon, California

“Canyon is an unincorporated community located near the border of Contra Costa and Alameda counties in California. It is situated between the cities of Oakland and Moraga in the San Francisco Bay Area. The community is named for its location in the upper canyon of San Leandro Creek, along the eastern slope of the Berkeley Hills. Canyon lies at an elevation of 1138 feet (347 m).

“The community is mainly traversed by Pinehurst Road and Canyon Road. The homes of the community are nestled amongst the steep, narrow private roads and footpaths that extend from the redwood groves and ferns along the creek, through the mixed live oak, bay, and madrone forests on the steep hillsides, up to the chaparral and knobcone pines that grow along the ridge.”

Canyon, California,_California

I visited Canyon in early May 2016, and here I present some images of this captivating community.

Claremont Chert, East Ridge Crest

Claremont Chert, East Ridge Crest

Upper San Leandro Reservoir

Upper San Leandro Reservoir

Canyon, Glimpses #2

Canyon, Glimpses #2

Canyon, Glimpses #1

Canyon, Glimpses #1

“Canyon, Glimpses #1” and “Canyon, Glimpses #2” are taken from the book Canyon: Glimpses of a Place, assembled and edited by Eric Peterson and Esperanza Pratt Surls, which includes photos by: Eric Peterson, Esperanza Pratt Surls, Roy Gilbert, Louise Pratt, Elena Tyrrell, Eve Livingston, Egl Batchelor, Evan Johnson, Gina Gaiser, Jeanne Lorenz, Forrest Gilbert and Aeriel Guy. This book was produced to raise funds for the Canyon School’s Eighth Grade Class Trip to Costa Rica, in May 2016 (and there’s always following years’ trips to pay for). This 60 page book has 148 photographs (127 in color, 21 in black & white). Copies may still be available ($20, plus shipping and postage) at the Canyon School [P.O. Box 187, Pinehurst Road, Canyon, CA 94516, Phone: (925) 376-4671, Fax: (925) 376-2343]. It’s nice.

Canyon School, from Railroad Grade

Canyon School, from Railroad Grade

Canyon - water system, and relic truck

Canyon – water system, and relic truck

Canyon - NW along Railroad Grade #1

Northwest along the Railroad Grade, #1

Canyon residence #1

Canyon, residence #1

Canyon, a garden #1

Canyon, garden #1

Canyon - NW along Railroad Grade #2

Northwest along the Railroad Grade, #2

Canyon residence #2

Canyon, residence #2

Canyon, a garden #3

Canyon, garden #2

Canyon - Charles Stanley Martin

Christopher Stanley Martin, remembered

Canyon - Adults at Play

Canyon – Adults at Play

Canyon - Smile

How can you not?

Canyon - relics by the Post Office

Canyon – Relics

Canyon, retired road warriors

Canyon School, vine loves wheel

Canyon, a vine embraces the wheel

Canyon School, creekside

Canyon School, creekside

Canyon School (new one, built 1992)

Canyon School

Canyon School, swings with sprinkler

Canyon – swings with sprinkler

Canyon School kids' geodesic dome #2

Canyon School geodesic dome, #1

Site 8, as previous

Canyon School geodesic dome, #2

Canyon - Pinehurst Road SW

Canyon – Pinehurst Road, southeast

Canyon, John van der Zee #1

John van der Zee’s book about Canyon, #1

Canyon, John van der Zee #2

John van der Zee’s book about Canyon, #2

Canyon, John van der Zee #3

John van der Zee’s book about Canyon, #3

Canyon, John van der Zee #4

John van der Zee’s book about Canyon, #4

Canyon: The Story of the Last Rustic Community in Metropolitan America
John van der Zee
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York
Copyright 1971, 1972 by John van der Zee
ISBN 0-15-115400-7
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 70-174516

John van der Zee’s book about Canyon reminds me that the hopes and ideals I had — 45 years ago — about community, ecology, efficiency, and “right living” in balance with nature, have yet to be recognized, let alone realized, in our America of mindless and wasteful consumption, the economic bullying called gentrification, the sacrifice of human dignity and lives over the obsession to accumulate money, and the denial of responsibility for climate change. Canyon, I’m sure, is objectively far from perfect, but the spirit animating it is undeniably enchanting.