The shocking moon

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It hit me with a jolt at 9pm on a warm night last week. I’d closed up the hutch so the bunny could sleep for the night, and was outside in the garden having fed the cat and tucked her up in the tiny potting shed where she liked to sleep.

It was almost dark, the night air slightly cooler than usual and full of happy bugs buzzing around upon some urgent business or another. I could smell the daphne, and lavender where I’d brushed past it to feed the cat, and there was just the slightest hint of pink left in the quickly darkening sky. The first of the bats were crossing toward the park.

Everything was so very ordinary for a summer’s night at home, but it was the moon that shocked me. The feeblest, watery crescent, barely anything at all: just a line-drawing of a moon, really. I looked up at that line-drawing of the moon in the soft, pink sky and thought, “It will be a dark night tomorrow night” (no moon: safe for the hunted things)… and then I thought of the full moon I’d seen over water in Scotland, heavy and ripe and turgid, and the two seemed a world apart. Which, of course, they were: you don’t get a lot further apart than the winter solstice in the highlands of Scotland from the south of Australia in the heart of summer.

It felt like another lifetime in which I’d looked upon that pregnant Scottish moon, and that’s when the realisation struck me: it wasn’t another lifetime, it wasn’t even a month ago. I was looking at the same moon, still within the very same cycle. She had waned from full to crescent and, in much less time, I had circled our planet like a miniature moon, in human form.

Have the shadows on my face changed?

Am I thinner?

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(When I was in labour with my daughter, it was long and difficult, and my husband and I cried at the end with the sheer magnitude of bringing her precious life into the world. When I was in labour with my son, it all went too fast: the labour, the birth, all of it. I felt I wasn’t ready and I couldn’t slow the world down enough to really feel the vastness of this little boy’s new life. Instead I had the nervous giggles - “Don’t worry, that’s pushing the baby out,” the midwife said - and my joyful child was born in ease and laughter, ready or not. I wonder if maybe air-travel is like this, sometimes.)

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For thousands of years, we all travelled at the pace of the planet, no faster than legs could carry or horses could run or salty winds could blow. Journeys may have been long and arduous, sometimes boring and often dangerous, but through the weariness and the peril there was ample time to adjust.

To seasons, to people, to our own decisions.

Now, in the space of just 24 hours, we can journey literally poles from our departure point, to a place that is the same but opposite, in almost every way. And the change is so rapid that we just go with it: land passes in a flash beneath us without any time to take stock, we get the nervous giggles (or take a sleeping tablet) and, when we come-to, everything around us has transformed before we are ready.

Everything but the moon.

The moon, which waxes and wanes whether the sun burns cold or hot and which, tomorrow night, will make the world dark and safe for the hunted things.