Visiting The Moon

“The forecast looks really wet, again, so would you like to visit the moon?” What a question! My friend of course assumed I knew that the moon was in Derby Cathedral for a brief period, but I had somehow missed knowing about this event.

The Moon fills Derby Cathdral

It filled the space in the centre of the cathedral, just fitting between the columns, looking magnificent and big as you walk in. Derby cathedral is rather unusual anyway being Georgian, neoclassical and only actually a cathedral since 1927. The lighting, soft blues and purples as part of the exhibition, reflected off the white walls and brighter surfaces and added to the atmosphere of reflected moonlight rather than the golden sunshine that often fills the space. Working out which view we usually see from Earth was an interesting challenge, especially when the angle isn’t quite the same, and I remembered how the Chinese talk about the Hare in the moon instead of our Man given they see it from a different angle. But the best thing was simply being able to walk all the way around this wonderful celestial body, seeing its different sides for the first time ever, seeing how some areas are covered by craters and others are completely smooth depending on how exposed its surface is. It was truly awe-inspiring.

One aspect that I found fascinating, however, had nothing to do with the actual moon and lots to do with they way our individual brains work. My friend was puzzled by why some craters looked like they went inwards, while others looked like they actually went the other way, standing proud of the surface. I hadn’t seen this at all, but it intrigued me that she did. I realised that because the sculpture was made up of multiple photographs stitched together and printed onto the fabric, some had had the light in different places. In some areas, two craters next to each other even had the light from opposite sides. Because my friend sees the whole first and then looks at the details, she couldn’t make sense of this. Because I see the details individually I hadn’t even realised they were different until I looked carefully. Then I started to temporarily have her problem!

I should add that this is actually an autistic thing – I am not formally diagnosed as autistic, but my daughter is. In this case, I was seeing the outline but understanding the whole through the details. I do this regularly, and can put details together in different ways in my mind to experiment with design, whereas most people prefer to see the whole first and then sort the details later. It means I will sometimes spot a potential problem at a very early stage, but will not be able to explain it adequately to those who are not yet at that stage – and they can’t always explain to me why it doesn’t matter. So it was nice for me to finally understand this.

As far as the moon went however, we were both able to enjoy it in our own unique way.

As we were about to leave, some choral music played and the lights changed colour. I am left with a wonderful feeling of calm and peaceful love. I returned with M a few days later, when I was able to take a few photographs – the gates were closed on this second visit as there was about to be a concert under the moon as part of Derby’s Folk Festival.

The Moon in Derby Cathedral, seen from the choir.

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Climbing Trees

One of the things on my wish list for this year was to climb a tree – after having had a wonderful experience last year of sitting on a branch that made a natural seat. It reminded me of great tree climbs I did as a child. A pine tree in a friend’s garden with branches like a step ladder. A U-tree in a park with every branch forming a U-shape and many perfect sitting places. (Possibly a Chamaecyparis species.) An oak with a great hollow in the side of the trunk, five feet off the ground, that we would be lifted into.

There is a lovely guardian oak a few fields from me that I have almost climbed a couple of times, balancing precariously on the top of the fence next to its crown, but not quite getting the courage up to take the leap into the tree itself, knowing that I would have to reverse the leap out again with no one to guide me. I have seen a few trees for my daughter to climb, but they haven’t appealed to me being either too low, or too spindly for an adult.

Oak tree near Skyreholme, Yorkshire

Finally in Yorkshire last week I found an oak that actually invited me to climb it, complete with dimples for feet on the way up. Oak is such a wonderful tree to climb, lending its solidity and presence to all endeavours which is very much apparent in the climbing and sitting, and with craggy bark to hold onto and very often soft moss to sit on. This one had a surprise for me as I peeked around the corner of the trunk – a split in a side branch had become home to a rowan tree.

Rowan growing out of a crack in an oak branch.
(Click to enlarge.)

It also reminded me that sitting in a tree is quite a different experience to sitting on the ground leaning against a tree, no matter how good the connection to the tree is.

This week I paid a visit to Stanton Moor (of which more next time) and wondered if I might climb the ‘climbing tree’ near the ‘cave’. Possibly fortunately, given it is not a very large tree, I took a different route that led me nowhere near that corner of the moor. However, leaving myself open to whatever experiences should come my way, I found this beauty of an oak instead. Another tree which invited me to climb, and was fairly easy even encumbered with camera and rucksack.

As I sat in the tree, I became aware of just how bizarre and atypical its shape was. Long spindly branches going off in all directions, with many small twigs growing out randomly. It covered a large area but was not particularly tall. I wondered whether another shape might be more suited to fitting in with the trees around it, that this seemed impossibly long and spindly in places. However I had the prompt answer come back at me that if it was meant to be another shape, it would have been. This is the right shape for this tree, right here, and nothing else would be as good. There was such a certainty and trust that the tree seemed completely peaceful as a result.

Oak tree on Stanton Moor


It was then pointed out to me that I generally had certainty in my own life as well, in my path, my situation, my doings. Just trust in it.

This was a good message for me right now.
I see all the things in the world that bother me where harmony with the Earth has been lost, and wonder repeatedly what more I could or should be doing. I do what small things are possible right where I am to improve my area, while always wondering if they are enough. Every so often this inner conflict leads to confusion and frustration or depression in me – and I am aware that this is exactly what makes necessary change in the world. Yet regularly I am reminded that large scale campaigning or hands-on activism are not my parts to play right now, nor is it my path to live in some sort of sustainable woodland permaculture, traffic-free utopia I might dream of for the world. Like the tree says, if I am meant to be doing those things right now, then I would be. One day this might change, but just trust in myself to know.

The other message I brought home from the moor, filled as it was with many different people each experiencing it in their own way and not all leaving it as they found it or making it easy for others, was to observe difference with love instead of criticism, and to keep celebrating the positive in order that the love may grow, on all sides. Maybe these things are needed just as much.

I now think of this as the ‘Certainty Tree’. I will try and remember its message – and continue to climb trees.