“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.”~George Carlin.
I have no definitive memory of when I saw my first full moon. Spending my first seven years mostly in a city was one factor. Even when we went on vacation to the less light polluted seaside, I have no recollection of seeing the moon on those short nights. The UK is an island surrounded by water and clouds most of the time, another discouraging fact. But I have clear memories of one of the many songs we sang together as a family on the long road trips to the countryside, or to visit relatives, which spoke of seeing a moon “right through the shade of the old oak tree, please let the light that shines on me, shine on the one I love.” Whenever I think of that song I hear my father’s voice providing the accompaniment.
In Jamaica the moon became on object that attracted me in all its phases. The sight of a slender new moon, elegantly hanging low in the sky reminded me of the hope of things to come. There was a superstition (I must have heard this from my mother) that you were supposed to turn over a new coin in your pocket whenever you saw the new moon. Would it bring more money? Luck? That I don’t recall! And who had new coins in their pocket! But it was the nights of the full moon that were the most dramatic. A light so bright you could literally sit outside and read. A light that turned the landscape from the riot of primary colors in the daytime, to silvery shades of grey. A light so bright it cast shadows.
Whenever I catch sight of a full moon I have to stop. I have to try to catch it on camera, although no photo can ever seem to do it justice. And I remember a moon which hung low and large and lemon colored in the sky the night of my father-in-law’s ‘set-up’ – the all night singing, eating and drinking festival traditionally held the night before the funeral in Jamaica.
But the same sight which triggered happy memories of my teenage years in Jamaica, of nights when my friend and I would ‘follow’ everyone else home after the young peoples’ meeting, triggered far less happy ones in a friend of mine. The photo that I found so magical triggered dread and memories of fears in her. She recalled seeing ‘duppy’ (ghosts in Jamaica) lurking in every long shadow that the full moon cast. She described walking home from church in the center of the crowd, to be sure the duppy couldn’t catch her.
And yes, Jamaica is an island full of ghosts, full of spirits which wander still, unable to rest because of their tragic lives. There was a time when a rumor of ghosts was so powerful there were numerous newspaper and TV items about it. A three-wheeled coffin was traveling the island, with 2 johncrow (vultures) accompanying it, asking for a Mr. Brown (Bob Marley even got in on the act, incorporating it into a song). Crowds actually gathered wherever there was a hint that the coffin had been seen.
In particular on the night of the full moon there is another famous Jamaican ghost which can be ‘heard’, the rolling calf, a calf which drags behind it a ball and chain. My friend was raised on stories such as these, and for a child with a vivid imagination it is easy to see how what should have been a beautiful scene on a moonlit night became chockfull of malevolent ghoulies and ghosties.
This echoed another phrase I heard this week: not all healers are saints. I forget the context, but it was one of those phrases that sunk into my brain. We often are impressed by people (may even fall in love with them) and see only the good, see only their bright sparks, their best attributes. And then when they turn out to be mortal, to be human and as flawed as the next person, we turn against them. The same person you so admire may be despised by someone else. Thankfully, there are usually enough of those who appreciate us to balance out those who find us insufferable! It is good to remember, as you are being made crazy by a person who pushes all of your buttons, to remember that somewhere out there is someone who sees only the good in this same person.
This Christmas I have been given the gift of a new place of abode, a retreat, a refuge, a home. (Not literally a gift, but it feels like it!). The single item that sold me on the house is the circular window in the upstairs bathroom, deep set, surrounded by opalescent mosaic tiles. The window pulls in the outside, it draws my eye to the changing sky, the rising sun, the building clouds. From my bedroom window I see the bird that visits the tree each morning. I watched the full moon rise, saw the silver light shine through onto my bed, and it prodded me to poetry. I posted one long forgotten poem of my childhood on facebook this week (I wonder why) and it unleashed a flood of memories in my friends. The power of a poem. The power of nature to inspire such poetizing.
To all of my Friends and Family, I wish you a peaceful Christmas with enough love to go around. I hope that the New Year brings you health and happiness in abundance. And when you see a full moon, sing along with me: “Over the mountains, over the sea, that’s where my heart is longing to be, please let the light that shines on me, shine on the one I love.”
May you have a fantastic weekend Family!