From my bedside, facing a window, I often look upon a row of stately evergreen and pine trees, their branching needles filled with squirrel and bird nests. The morning of this writing, the impending storm sky as backdrop, outlines the green branches; stillness abides.
Three nights ago, room pitch-black, about to doze off and facing this very window, I was startled by the appearance of a large three-fingered hand illuminated by an ethereal backlight on the closed window shade.
For the prior five days, I had been under siege with a head cold, every minute taken up with bailing out the endless fluids clogging my mind and membranes. For an instant, I did not trust my senses. A hand, with three feathery-like fingers and a spindly wrist, seemed like an apparition. I had no fever. I was not hallucinating. My imagination went straight to science fiction and movies. Could it be a space ship in hover-mode? Aliens? The backlit light seemed ethereal; yes, other-world.
I put the light on and tried to roust Marv, who was sound asleep. “You’ve got to look at what’s at the window.”
I doused the light; he turned to look. The hand seemed even more alive, as if it could leap out. “Interesting,” he said.
“What do you think it is?”
Silence. Marv had fallen back to sleep.
I gathered myself, stepped from bed to the sill and lifted the shade halfway. Mystery solved with nary an alien ship in sight. The moon, full and radiant, had risen and settled a tad above and behind the row of trees. I wondered if this could be nature’s version of shadow art.
I closed the shade, to once again confront the spindly hand. Closeup, I noticed how the layering of tiny bristle shapes formed the foundation of each finger. I was instantly grateful; imaginings were just imaginings. The evergreen branch was shaped similar to a hand. But still, to make certain, I repeated the ritual, lifting the shade to peer again at the moon, to embrace its familiar glimmer, to settle my nerves further.
Imagination is powerful at night, especially with clogged senses. But more, it was the unexpected apparition in my safe bedroom, the too close presence of a 2 by 5 foot image that spooked me. Afterwards, I returned to bed with gratitude for my wiser self, the part that compelled me to get a grip, slide onto the cold floor and crack the shade in search of an explanation.
Next morning, I opened the shade eager to find the three-fingered branch, the model for nature’s moon-caste shadow art. I followed the tree line straight up in my line of vision. The tallest tree pointed skyward; the image, seared in my mind, leapt out. Thanks to the grace of daylight, I identified the three needled “finger” branches, rising above the others, splayed and soaring. It was a definite match.
You had me spooked too! What tricks the eyes can invent! Especially when it’s pitch black outside, except for moonlight, and not a sound to divert your fear. Oh, the dresses that branches wear, and the shadows they instill…dress rehearsals on life’s stage.
You settled me down finally, as I respond in the night from Encinitas, CA. Feel better dear friend.
What a wonders the world surrounds us with – sights to savor and ponder.
A delightful post that reminds me of when I was a kid and my bed was next to the one window in my room and often times if I awoke in the middle of the night the shadows caste off the tall trees from the moonlight was spook me. Beautiful imagery!
I liked the story of this quasi-delusion and the (courageous) hunt for its source. It felt like a micro-thriller, exploiting the power of night and its moonlight to distort an image, make it seem ominous. I appreciated as well having both the imaginary and the real in one piece–along with what was in-between, especially the spouse who will not rouse!
I love trees and really liked the way the familiar becomes unfamiliar and then familiar again, and in that movement the narrator is transformed, transported, scared, delighted.
Lisa, well put! Thank you.