Moonrise over Poplar Tree Lake
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Moonrise over Meeman-Shelby Forest

The moon rises proudly over your forested horizon as we witness its appearance from the shore of Poplar Tree Lake. How many rising moons have we seen looking across these lake waters to the wooded notch at the far end? Harvest moons, blue moons, supermoons, eclipses, and dozens of the usual monthly risings of the moon’s bright fullness as we wait, standing at the lakeshore, sometimes shivering cold or sweltering hot, and on many pleasant evenings in fall and spring.

The same moon peering over your horizon has followed me since my earliest years. I often woke to its bright rays streaming through the window of my childhood room. In adolescence I would escape the chaos of our raucous household to wander the streets of our suburban neighborhood late at night with only the moon as companion. In those treasured moments of ambulatory solitude, I imagined the lunar orb as an enlightened and compassionate friend listening patiently to my rantings and dreamings.

Full moon, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park
Full moon, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Tennessee (photo by T.S.Bremer, 2014)

I have continued to witness the moon in all its phases from the vantage of every place where life has taken me. It seems a better companion than most people I have known, certainly more patient. The moon remains my silent confidante.

The sun makes life here possible, and for that alone deserves its divine status. But its generous energies can easily overwhelm. The solar gods roar through the days like powerful horses bolting across the sky. The moon, in contrast, comes into our lives more gently. When it rises full and close on a clear evening, the lunar glow lights up the world with less glare than the ferocious solar fire, a softer reflection of the sun’s more insistent energy.

As the full moon moves toward the horizon and pales in the growing light of cool winter mornings, your woods invite us to tramp along your trails. Bare trees stand motionless, holding ground that they have nurtured for decades. In winter we can better see your terrain, the steep slopes and far ridges that summer foliage hides from view. The winter woods seem empty, but they are far from dead. Life waits its patient season for warmer soils.

We find warmth in motion, plodding up and down your trails. Lungs burn and legs ache up the steepest parts, and old knees twinge a hint of pain coming down the twisting trail. My eyes take in your every detail. I notice the dark green of reeds crowded along the creek bed. A skittish flock of nuthatches darts in the tangle of shrubs. A woodpecker knocks a rapid rhythm high amid the bare branches. The forest remains alive even in its restful time.

Creekside reeds, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park
Creekside reeds, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Tennessee (photo by T.S.Bremer, 2007)

We have camped in your woods, and our overnight stays had a pleasant nostalgia for us. Many long evenings we spent sitting beside the glowing embers of a campfire beneath your canopy of trees. As the night darkened, we could lean back to wonder at the vast expanse of stars pushing through the openings between the branches overhead.

Campground sign, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park
Campground sign, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Tennessee (photo by T.S.Bremer, 2007)

My greatest pleasure was waking to the sounds of dawn in your forest. A chorus of songbirds would greet the dull light, with an occasional chatter of startled squirrels piercing the calm. Most welcome was the music of wind rushing through your trees.

Camping, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park
Camping, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Tennessee (photo by T.S.Bremer, 2007)

Sleeping in your woods eventually ran its course and ended our camping days for good. Outdoor enthusiasts have changed, arriving now in larger, more obnoxious motor homes and trailers that crowd America’s campgrounds with a less personable, mostly inhospitable breed of campers. They tend to keep to themselves in their self-contained homes on wheels, replete with televisions, outdoor speaker systems, full kitchens, and often little garages to haul their oversized, motorized toys.

We have little patience for such vanities, and as we have aged, the tasks of camping gradually became less joy and more burden, until the time came to admit that our camping days were done. This saddens me, the way that all pleasures given over to memory sadden me. Yet we still take pleasure hiking your wooded trails in every season, even if we can’t stay the night.

Hiking, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park
Hiking, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Tennessee (photo by T.S.Bremer, 2007)

Going into your woods, your trees welcome us. They stand mostly still, mostly silent. But we hear their whispers and feel their intentions. Each one has its own wisdom born of the space it occupies. In whatever manner they may have come to this place, each one accepts and celebrates its growing, its aging, its returning to the soil that steadies its years.

Your trees never judge, nor do they fret over passing weather or upset neighbors. They live their lives with an abundance in all that they need as they pass the decades in blissful attachment, literally rooted in place. Every moment of a tree’s being utters the arboreal virtue of emplacement with perfect equanimity, absent any hint of regret, envy, or resentment, never complaining or resisting.

Certainly you are more than your trees, but without their canopy, the leafbed mulch, the fallen branches and rotting trunks, you are not possible. The trees feed and protect you, they sustain and nurture you.

Trees, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park
Trees, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Tennessee (photo by T.S.Bremer, 2007)

Looking upward through the spidery patterns of their branches, past the variegated shades of green leafing out in spring, I see a shimmering blue of daytime sky. I share the hope of trees stretching skyward as their roots burrow deep into the earth’s solid ground, spreading in all directions of the celestial, terrestrial, and chthonic, in ever-expanding circles of oneness.

I am a small weed in the vastness of your forest. But as I contemplate the intricate textures in your complex webs of life, I realize that in me also lies a world as vast and complicated as your forest, just as alive and dynamic as you, breathing and growing another day.

Trees at water’s edge
Trees at water’s edge, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Tennessee (photo by T.S.Bremer, 2007)

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