These days it is not always possible to live in a free-standing home surrounded by a garden in a suburb. The trend is towards living – albeit in free-standing houses – that are in enclosed complexes. This is a reflection of such ‘communal’ living taken late one afternoon.
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.
It is far too cold to swim! It is far too cold for comfort and so even the weakest of sunshine draws me outdoors – mainly to watch the birds that are eager for any extra sustenance I put out for them.
The swimming pool may no longer be an attractive prospect for swimming, yet produces some delightful surprises of its own. Enjoy the shapes cast by leaves floating on the top. The dragon-like shape comes from a piece of airplant that was blown in by a particularly icy wind that has brought in the cold weather and dumped it here, where it saps energy and casts a pall on what is usually a sparkling time of year in this little town.
Reflections can reveal more than the eye sees initially and can change the shape of things – see the picture of a spider in our swimming pool!
I was reminded of this during a recent visit to the Addo Elephant National Park. There we were able to appreciate the tranquillity of the reflections of the warthogs and herons in the waterhole at Carol’s Rest.
After a previous trip I discovered, much to my surprise, that my car was reflected in the eye of a kudu I had photographed browsing next to the road!