Tonight’s full moon pushed my memory back half a century, back to another mystic full moon November night. I was with two college friends, though we had all recently dropped out of college. It was a wild time, and we were too impatient for the new knowledge, the kind college couldn’t offer us. We’d heard life’s insistent call, and the dusty old programs and conditioning which the antiquated educational system was trying to pawn off on us no longer seemed at all relevant.
We were temporarily rooming together in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district, at the height of the legendary Hippie flowering. That night we sat around our table made from a large old electric cable spool. We had snagged it from a local PG & E yard, laboriously sanded it down, and then polyurethane-varnished it with three clear coats, resulting in a lovely center piece for an otherwise traditional crash pad.
Around midnight, it spontaneously occurred to us to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to a semi-hidden location above Sausalito, where a tunnel which had been drilled through the Marin hills led to an old abandoned military fort (Fort Cronkhite), replete with concrete gun bunkers dotting the cliffs, which were installed facing the Pacific Ocean in anticipation of a World War 2 Japanese invansion.
We often made such serendipitous adventure plans, typically involving long distance drives up and down the West Coast through the night to some exotic destination. Since I was the only one who had a car — a well-used ’62 baby blue Ford Falcon — I was invariably the designated driver. Moreover, I was the one who was usually able to “maintain” under certain influences, and tonight was no different.
As we set out, I realized I was low on gas, but estimated that I would have enough to make the round trip. Nevertheless, I looked for filling stations as we made our way out of town, but all the ones I passed appeared to be closed. This would become an issue later in the story, but for now, I wasn’t too concerned, and soon we found ourselves at the mouth of the cavernous fort tunnel on the other side of the bridge.
Once we made it through to the small parking area on the other side, we got out of the car and hiked for a while along an overgrown path, using our flashlights to navigate. Eventually, we came upon a grouping of the concrete gun bunkers (sans cannons), and decided to explore them in the strong bright moonlight.
The view was utterly spectacular – clear skies, full moon right above us illuminating the ocean, the cliffs and shoreline cast in moonshine, and it seemed we had it all to ourselves, as if this whole scene had been waiting just for us to savor and be transformed by its mysterious beauty! We surveyed it all silently, each of us lost in our own thoughts, or just struck dumb at the majestic sweep of sea and shore.
As I gazed up at the moon, I realized that I had never really appreciated it before tonight, and as I allowed my whole feeling being to be seduced by its charms, I completely lost track of time in my fixed contemplation. Various lines of poetry spontaneously arose in the back of my mind, although I had never experimented with such writing previously. I felt that a momentous secret was about to be revealed, and I was thrilled with anticipation that some sort of enlightenment would break through any minute and answer all of life’s questions.
Eventually, one of my friends was tapping me on the shoulder, waking me from my trance. He mentioned that I had been standing there, gazing at the moon, for nearly two hours, although to me it seemed like mere minutes. They were eager to get going, and so reluctantly I turned back to the path by which we had come, and soon we had made our way back to the car.
When I started the motor, I noticed that the fuel gage was on empty. This was disconcerting, to say the least. I had not seen any open gas stations on the way there, so I considered driving down into Sausalito, where hopefully we would find one open, even at this late of night. I debated whether I should use whatever fumes we still had on a futile trip even further out of our way, but decided finally to take our chance.
For the whole way to that lovely little town, the fuel needle was pressed on empty, but somehow we did managed to make it there, only to discover that there were no open fuel stations to be found. I was utterly surprised that we had even made it that far, but now we faced a long drive back to San Francisco, and we surely had a completely empty gas tank.
Taking a deep breath, I turned the car towards our hopeful destination and set out. I was expecting the car to conk out any minute, but it seems we were being pushed along, strangely enough, by the power of moonlight itself. Miraculously, we did make it back to our apartment just as dawn was breaking. Before going in, I paused for one last glance at the moon, now setting over Golden Gate Park from our vantage point. I swear the face in the moon winked back at me, with a smile I’ll never forget!
Once in our rooms, my two friend turned in, but I was too excited to sleep, and so instead began jotting down some lines, which eventually (after a few rounds of editing) became this poem:
nothing makes a difference.
Blown along cold coasts of reason,
the wordless breeze is winding down now
to a softer part of the feeling, is warm
on the tip of the eye I am keeping
like a lover on this moon.
blasts the billion tiny mirrors
studded diamond-like within my cells,
ablaze with urgent white-light moonshine.
While some wisps of stray grey fog
slyly wrap themselves around us,
we are tempted to the old debate:
Talking breeds its own dilemmas –
streams of concepts chasing mirages –
so we assume no fixed positions, nodding
to each other in that sweet redundancy
We know that anything other than
the most impeccable humor in the face
of delusion merely postpones true serenity.
For no particular reason, or
for every reason there ever could be,
we smile — we’re in no hurry.
That’s true serenity, which is never
anything like the idea of itself.
Neither are you and I, we’re like
nothing conceivable or even perceivable.
We indulge no secret motive to have anything
be other than what it is – a passing phantom
flash of itself, reflected like moonshine
on the shiny black lacquer of itself.
The sheer intensity of this love shines
so strongly our hands open up and something
invisible flies out to blend with infinity!
As I move closer to you (though between us
no distance exists), the subtle movements we make
with our spirit eyes stir visions for beings still waiting
to incarnate, euphorically anticipating our next breath.
We will not disappoint them.
Within the bosom of this fog of forgetfulness,
something seems to persist, impaled by shafts
of intermittent moonshine on the tip of attention.
Grasping at nothing, turning nothing away,
we pause here, poised at the outermost reach
of vision’s lighthouse light beam, transfixed
at the exquisite nexus of darkness and light.
All effort has led us here.
All effort dissolves here.
From this time on, there will be
Somewhere, in the measureless
distance, a fog horn sounds: