Musings by Moonlight

April 4, 2015 in Guatemala, Travelogue


There is solitude in moonlight.

Where the sunlight powers the world and creates energy with it’s very presence, pushing humanity forward even as she pulls our planet at dizzying speed in her orbit, illuminating everything, awakening everything, exploding with heat and light; the moon waits quietly in the shadows. She is not the star of the universal show, she’s merely a reflector of the day’s glories. She doesn’t demand the worlds dance around her, rather she’s content to glide softly around the margins of us.

I sat long, and quietly on the stone wall with my right leg dangling over the edge, contemplating the ten days we have left here, listening to the darkness: drumbeats, laughter, the clinking of glasses, a dog in the distance, the rhythmic lap of water against rock. I breathed in the silence and settled my soul. The raspy rhythm of bamboo leaves shaking hands in the gloaming, the crackle of Tor’s fire as the logs shifted, quiet conversation just out of earshot. The Man came and lay down on the stone at my feet.

“I didn’t know where you’d disappeared to,” he commented as he tipped his hat over his eyes. I adjusted my feet so that I wasn’t touching him. He lay there for about three minutes in the darkness and then asked, “What are you thinking about?”

“How the clouds are different at night, and I’m enjoying the quiet.” He nodded and disappeared, leaving me alone with the moon.

The clouds are different at night.

During the day they strike me as travelers, sometimes moving light and fast, other times, big billowing bags packed for the long haul and trudging an endless road overhead. They come and go, changing shape, changing journeys and occasionally looking over a shoulder to see what’s going on down below. The clouds at night seem to creep out of quiet caves somewhere to tiptoe softly in the margins of what light may be. They aren’t white, but shades of grey and yellow, to almost orange as they bow softly and waltz with the moon, long capes whirling around and across her, sometimes eclipsing her lily white gown. It’s a dance I never tire of watching to music played by the stars that I can almost hear.

Beneath the sun, this lago is a liquid sapphire set into the top of the world, the volcanos cradling a jewel that surely is the summation of all that matters in the temporal. It feels, to me, as if there is nothing beyond this caldera, as if, from the top of any one of the mountains, one would turn her back on the lake and see nothing but clouds and the universe beyond. At night, the waters become molten obsidian, a liquid glass the colour of the absence of all light. A black hole into which the whole world is pulled and we’re all at risk of tumbling through to some other place we cannot yet imagine. Only the moon resists her pull.

Full and round and fiery opal white, she dances with the darkness, unafraid. 

I watched for a long time as clouds came and went, cloaking her light and then revealing it again. The dragon’s head that stretches out from the mountain behind our cove didn’t stir. I’m always waiting for that ancient beast to open one great, green eye and lift his head after millennia of slumber. In the deepest dark, when the horizon line of the water disappeared completely into the shadow of the volcanos, shooting stars streaked across the vast expanse of night: boats with a bow light making a lonely passage, too far away to hear.

I watched as the music faded and the clouds bowed out of the dance and the moon’s light fell in shimmering ribbons onto the ink black lake and then exploded into a thousand fireflies flickering across the surface. They crept towards me and then flitted away; always just out of reach.

The Man returned, silently, and handed me a steaming up of tea before wandering back to the party. He knows that I often like to be alone, but that tea is always welcome. So then, I watched the steam from my tea cup. Pulling my thumbs through the holes in my purple sweater to keep the ceramic from burning the palms of my hands, I blew swirls and spirals of evaporating liquid into the dark night and towards the moon. I suspect she likes tea too.

The moon has always been a comfort to me.

She and I understand each other.

  • She reminds me that there are many phases and forms to this life and that each one is to be celebrated.
  • She reminds me that to shine, one need only reflect what is already there; what has always been there; and that it’s sometimes okay to be eclipsed.
  • She reminds me to be silent and to watch.
  • She reminds me that, even when darkness abounds and it feels like morning will never come, there is beauty to be found, a dance to attend, and companions we cannot see in the sunlight.
  • She reminds me that life is not all heat, and light, and activity. Sometimes it is cool, and shadows, and stillness.

We sat and talked, the full moon and I. We remembered the night, several years ago, when I lay in a hammock on this lago and watched her rise through the leaves of a banana tree and lay there until almost morning as she slowly danced across the firmament. We smiled together about all of the nights we’ve spent since then, mindful of one another in the darkness. She’s the only friend I have who looks in on me, no matter how far I travel or where a night finds me.

I take a lot of comfort from the constance of the moon and her reliable passage through my nights. Her light is gentle and understanding, compassionate and patient. I speak to her a lot. About the goings on in my own head, and the stories told beneath the sun. I speak through her as well, to those I love who are far away. I suppose I would sound funny to anyone close enough to hear, but I’m a firm believer that moonlight is a silver cord between hearts and that messages can be reliably relayed that way. If you love me, and you miss me, and you look to the moon as she rises, you can be almost guaranteed that she’ll whisper to you on my behalf. She has promised me this.

This night’s moon will be the last full moon I celebrate on my lago for a very long time. Years maybe; who knows. I’ll sit with her again tonight and talk about what’s past and what’s yet to come. I’ll ask her to keep an eye on my young people as they spin off into worlds of their own. I’ll ask her to watch over this lake and the people here that I love. We’ll agree to meet in Canada the next time, and she’ll offer to guard our passage, as she always does. She’ll whisper to me messages from the few people who know they can talk to me this way, and I’ll tuck that moonlight away between the folds of my heart, like the pages of an old book, to take out later and remember. In the meantime, I need to pack.