IN HER SILVER SHOON

I learned to recite the poem Silver by Walter de la Mare in primary school which began:

Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon

Later on, the moon sees Silver fruit upon silver trees and a harvest mouse is described as having silver claws and silver eye. These beautiful descriptions have remained with me ever since.

Having grown up in the platteland, far from the pollution of city lights, I revelled in the magical world revealed by the light of the full moon and found the colour changes fascinating: the grape vine next to our house looked black; the leaves on trees shone with a soft brilliance as they rustled in the Lowveld wind; bougainvilleas exchanged their daytime brilliance for more muted colours; and our cat moved like liquid between the shadows in the garden.

It is the shadows that prove so mysterious on a moonlit night, changing the shapes of familiar objects in a benign manner. Even now, whenever our present garden is flooded with moonlight, I cannot resist peering out of our upstairs window to admire the reflection of the moon in the pool; to listen to the soft call of night birds; and to see the shape-shifting of the trees and shrubs so familiar to me during the day. Way below me the white daisies and the pale rambling roses that have threaded themselves though the pompon trees glow with a ghostly ambience. Who needs fairy lights?

I happily recall warm moonlit nights in the Kruger National Park and, more recently, the bright reflection of the moonlight on the pale Kalahari sand in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. There is no need for torchlight to get around the camp then. Instead I enjoyed sitting on the fine sand, still warm from the sun, wriggling my toes between the grains and absorbing the ethereal beauty of a world illuminated by that silver orb. Background sounds of lions roaring, jackals howling and the occasional ‘whoop’ of hyenas added an extra dimension to that feeling of being bathed in nature’s beauty.

Who can resist the splendour of the moon rising, reddened by a dusty horizon (that makes me think of when the moon was blood as described by G.K. Chesterton in The Donkey) or gleaming a rich creamy yellow before appearing as its familiar silvery white self?

Unlike the lyrics sung by Creedence Clearwater Revival, I never see a bad moon arisin’ with trouble on the way. Instead I welcome the arrival of the full moon as if it were heralding a new world and the opportunity for a fresh start.

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