Four AM, damn near the navel of the sacred-of-ages forests of southern New Hampshire. The brilliant silvery reign of the Harvest Moon continues yet unabated, the lateness of the year’s own hour betrayed by the relative absence of any of the harbinger’s of dawn. The fake aurora borealis, however, those orangey slivers above Nashua and Fitchburg spriting it up in the clouds tonight, have begun to dim and make way, if not for the sun, then for the stars whose hour of play is the earliest of the morning.
It is the hour at which so much is below dark cover in slumber while so much else is under the moon afoot. The internet is a barren wasteland of sleep before me, the Facebook chats and even sporadic posts long since gone dead, the rest of the web but an echoing cavern of stories I don’t want to read tonight.
Sounds, sounds. Not of nightbirds or comradely coyotes, but of pumping, churning, spilling water where none should be. Are these the criminal dumpers of stolen water or poisoned chemicals in the heart of the square – or might these phantoms represent merely the protestations of subterranean septic systems living ever with one foot in the grave? The clicks and whirs of UFO-hunting radios echo from the hill, while ghosts and little demonlets host cocktail parties in the abandoned school on one side. On the other, the general store, too strange to be true even under the brightest daylight, hosts impossible and imaginary yet true and tangible summits between the dead and gone and here and never-were.
Clearly, this is no night for pronouncements or even the most fanciful of arguments. It’s times like these we run screaming from the concrete and into the welcoming arms of the symbolic and ethereal, half by choice, the other born of necessity.
* * *
Visions are never by any means a guarantee, and for most of us they will happen and happen again entirely against our well and hardly ever when expected.
By whose hand do I awaken in a dark abandoned rest stop parking lot, close enough to the still-busy highway to see and feel the glow of the passing lights in either direction, but far enough that I remain out of the vehicles’ sight, and them from mine? How did I get here? Do I have a car? It doesn’t seem like it.
Why is this place so dark and vacant? It’s clearly a usable rest stop, even if it looks a bit out of date compared to the cookie cutter hubs to which we’ve all grown accustomed dotting the sides of all our interstates. No, the highway just over the ridge is a big one, but not an interstate, and this place looks, upon closer examination, like it could itself be pre-Eisenhower. There’s an abandoned sandwich shop close to where I find myself regaining consciousness, the chipped paint of the sign still bearing the ancient words: Fat Boy’s Pizza and Subs. There might be a basketball court on the other side of this thing, but for the most part, all the lights are out. Sometimes I think it might not be safe here, but then I end up feeling instead like this just-past-the-edge isolation might perhaps make this old and unused rest stop the safest possible place for a guy like me at a time like this.
I’ve come to on what seems to be reddish-brown wooden riser-style bleachers, a small set of a single column of maybe seven or eight rows going up. I hear the rushing of the traffic (why so many cars at this time of night? and what time is it, anyway? and how did I get here, again) and nothing else but my thoughts and the oddly magnified thud of my heart beating like it has for quite some time and hopefully will continue doing for a while longer.
But there it is again – time’s kind of a touchy subject in my recently-waked state. I have no idea what time it is. In fact, I get the sense that I’ve been here for hours, if not forever. I’m not sure if I can leave, or “when” I might leave, or how – and I’m not sure if any of these questions represent something good or bad.
The only thing I vaguely recollect just now was a 7 o’clock Sox game at Fenway. It felt like I had been there, that I’d been party to a reunion of sorts between myself and a one-time fellow traveler from fifteen years – more, even – in the past. This was no indulgence in momentary or lasting rekindling of some earlier flame of romance or folly, nor was it the kind of thing where you see an old friend and for a few precious hours take solace in pretending that it is again the simpler days and not the pressure-cooker of the present. Neither fling nor nostalgia trip nor even a whimsical occasion to catch up and swap tales, this was a business meeting. Matters of the spirit – or whatever, I can’t say exactly – needed to be discussed. It was a conference conducted wholly in the parlance of the professional, even if there were other parts of it we may have found pleasant or comforting.
The conflicts that required hashing out were not disputes directly between us, for we were not at odds. Rather, it seemed as though certain factions, residing separately in the respective realms we’ve each come to occupy in the intervening years, required our mediation. I’ve had these meetings before, these business meetings of life. Our process of working out the items on the agenda (whatever they were, exactly) was professional and astute while remaining cooperative and toward some overlap of mutually shared aim. Negotiations were submitted, rejected, and countered, lines were drawn, compromises agreed upon, all while the Red Sox played a game they either won or lost under the bright lights and the angry pink sky accenting the buildings behind. We sat in the grandstands next to the bleachers, heading toward Pesky’s Pole. When the game ended, we’d concluded our business, exchanged a pleasant parting, and went in separate directions.
That’s all I can remember prior to waking up here in the rest stop. I can’t even be sure the whole Red Sox game business conference wasn’t just a dream I had on the wooden bleacher over there. I also can’t be sure if this whole rest stop and my eternal occupancy of it are themselves the figment of dream. Then again, if you keep going down that line, you’re never really sure if anything is real, if it’s all just a dream – or, then, perhaps if it’s all real, even the dreamed parts. Whoa, man.
Pacing around in the dark, looking up at the sky and living in the pulse of the cars just over the ridge, I seem to be able to see a little more. Here I am. There I’ve been. Look at what it’s been. Look at where we are. Why are we here? Just stop. We’re here. Stop. You don’t have to do anything right now. We’re here, we will be somewhere, we’ve come from somewhere else still.
And then again, as has happened to me a thousand times if it’s happened once, the great voice responds back to remind me: this hasn’t happened, this isn’t happening, this won’t happen. Instead, this happens.
Not here I am or where I am…but here it is.
All in this rest stop and beyond.
* * *
Beyond, beyond, up and away, up, up into whatever space or distance exists between that plane of the rest stop and this four AM wonderland of invisible mists and perceptible sprites, that’s where the images come, those pictures and arch-persons that reside deep in the deepest part of our memory, the part that is collective and ingrained, the part that comes from before we were born.
The moon – tonight’s Harvest Moon specifically, but all of the moons, really – has two selves. She is the priestess, the goddess, the blessed silver lining of night, the holy huntress. She is also the heart of darkness, the wild adventure of chaos that spirals in a vortex at the center where the darkest midnight shifts itself to whatever new creation is to be revealed in the light.
Below and within the bathing light of both her selves at once is the Earth-Couple, the king and queen of this planet and those aspects of it, and us, that produce and bring forth life along the cycles of eternity in this universe. The queen sits patiently, quiet but not docile, passive but not helpless. Without any of us noticing, she trickles water slowly from her hilltop into the barren badlands below, slowly, slowly, until the oases form, until the land is transformed into the lushest forest. Her lover, the king, he saunters nearby, in the tillable fields on the other side of her hill. He is the earthquake, he is the volcano, and he is the one who brings forth from the rock and soil and crust, from the very mantle and core of this space-rock, things from the bacteria to the harvest to the walking-creatures – the seemingly boring but brilliantly mighty tiller who ensures that from this earth comes life.
For not just this couple, upon whom we depend, but for all of us ourselves beneath the Moon, there always comes that time when, by our due or by fortune, we come to be blessed by Jupiter, jolly regent of the pantheon of deities we’ve forgotten or laugh at. When such a season falls upon us, we may still be held back by unintentional interference or unforeseen but non-malicious events. Accordingly, for example, if you’re anything like me, you know well the feeling of being in possession of a plunder of intellect that is only possible to conjure in the form of a jumble of geometric shapes within which we get lost and tangled.
Fire-flowers and iron bars – before us between blind oppression’s blowtorch and the virtue of newly erupting spring is a dispiritingly ordinary whisper of defeat, not a defeat born of epic loss but of embarrassing and misplaced pacifism and corruption. In such a spot along the cosmic dial, we may even be suffering betrayal.
Even so, there yet exists the deal-making queen – perhaps one and the same as, or at least friends with, the former-friend-turned-neighboring-warlord-chieftain of my Red Sox vision – and it is she who enables the idea to become liberated, to become solid, touchable, useful. Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, a useful and grounded system forms like the most platonic possible ideal of government, and it is here as well that we are shown the fountains of abundance and comfort…which in turn remind us that it is precisely in the bloom such comfort and such pleasure that the seeds of decay, of chaos’ rebirth, begin first to sprout.
The two moons, our saviors and our devourers, neither of them exclusive to either role, then make stand in all the more stark contrast that to which they themselves are but the complement – the whole of the glory of all the sun. The sun, our truest god and goddess, the source and sustainer of our life and impartial bringer of our judgment. It is beneath his and her rays that we see people dancing, not just any old dance but the dance that reminds us once and for all that mankind can yet – and may well be – liberated.
Beneath the most properly understood of her and his rays, we see that mankind may yet dance again.
Standing at the right of this freedom’s lifelight is the girl who walks from the fire, the one we spoke of last week, the one envisioned by no less a powerhouse than Robert Hunter. To get close to her in her beauty and passion is to be consumed, a consumption which may at once be fatal and final and still yet lead us along the only path toward new life – the path that travels through the ashes, and maybe the void.
Standing at the left is the eternal reminder and incessant heartbeaten message from earth and sky borne by the Great Pyramids and the process of their construction and perhaps even the period of their use.
Turn the pyramids back on! those who understand cry. But this is not a trip back but a propelling forward. When we see all these images, as we do now and as we will again, we must know that great work can still be accomplished, that we must set about at once toward the construction of our newest monoliths, that we might live to see that moment in which we’ve completed the final power switch and use a single finger to flick it on.
From the darkened rest stop to a future liberated Zion alongside a New New Nile, all along the crest of the void and oblivion, it is in the flashing of these symbol-pictographs and not in our words and calculations, that some measure of hope and gratitude and divinity might be garnered.