AT first I couldn't believe my eyes. It was nighttime at our friends' cottage. Something had woken me in the wee hours, and I had glanced through the side window of the guest room. Utterly amazed, I looked again. A tree in full blossom in the month of September! And clearly visible by night. Just what had been planted out there?
Eager to be convinced, I stepped noiselessly from my bed, intent on witnessing this phenomenon up close. Outside, the night air was still. A loon called once in the distance. But there indeed was the tree - the blossoms, almost the size of sand dollars, gleaming whitely at me.
I stepped close and raised my hand to touch the phantom petals. Instantly, my fingers spread into white blooms! I drew my hand back quickly, then reached out tentatively again. This time, my fingers touched the edges of leaves, breathtaking in their luminosity. So that was it! Softly, delightfully, the illusion had been broken for me.
And yet, strangely enough, the moon was nowhere in sight. Then I discovered that it was deftly hiding on the other side of the cottage roof. Somehow, with lunar subtlety, its rays had found an angle by which to reach the sapling without touching anything else. The leaves, caught in such artful light, had become transformed.
Now I was ambivalent. While disappointed to lose the September blooms, I smiled at this trick of the night that had drawn me outside as a full believer.
My wife never stirred at my return. As I lay down again, I rehearsed what I would tell her about the tree in the morning. I could imagine the expression on her face. And I could hear her making a distinction between observation and perception. Would she remind me of the difference between the literalist in us - who would pass off such an incident as a stupid mistake, and the poet in us - who would recognize instead the elements of epiphany?
Of course, those might not be her exact words, but I felt confident she would come up with just the right emphasis. I only regret that I had not woken her to share in the experience of really seeing things.