Moonlit

Full “Ice” Moon – says my Lunabar Almanack for Wednesday, 19 January 2011 at 21:22. It says so because ever since I started using the application, I’ve had it set on Neo-Pagan moon names. And, like most things pagan, this description couldn’t be more accurate. Under tonight’s full moon my beautiful old college feels even more otherworldly than usual. Icy-blue shadows hang over the pitch-black River Cam, which whispers softly from under the little stone bridge at the Backs. Our royal ducks (who are, as usual, going about their nightfall duckie business while talking tirelessly in the darkness of the vast lawn) have turned into silvery silhouettes of creatures from times long past. If you stop on that bridge and let the last echoes of someone’s midnight stilettos fade away into the winter air, you begin to slip imperceptibly into a nameless, solitary, still space between the pages of time, filled with voices from the past and faces from the future. Softly, half-consciously, but steadily, you join all those who have stood there for centuries before you, with the chapel rising against a never-ageing sky, and you can’t help but wonder: what did they think of? what did they hope for? what did they fear? whom did they miss? whom did they long for? whom did they love? And above all: did they know of you the way you know of them? Or are you just an inadvertent voyeur, standing motionless at a temporal moonlit window while water flows beneath your feet? I was just thinking: maybe every once in a while we’re all standing on stone bridges and glancing into another’s world, while someone peeks cautiously into ours. There, between the pages of time, things can get pressed into each other, and mix and merge and coalesce, the way lovers do. And then, you never really know if the voices you hear all come only from your own past, just like you never really know who suddenly hears – and cries over, and laughs over, and wonders over – words that had been spoken to you. Memory is: sharing those phantasms. When the moon is Full, and is Ice, it’s really not all that startling to hear an unfamiliar fleeting note among the quiet voices of your mind. Don’t be afraid. It’s just someone’s lost or invisible loved ones, whispering by, while someone else, for a moment, can hear your loved ones instead. It’s all transposable on old stone bridges, when everything is moonlit. … And then you keep walking, leaving the river and the chapel and the lawn and the busy ducks behind. You carry along your voices – holding the treasured ones a bit closer, that’s really why you tighten the coat around yourself – and perhaps also some that aren’t yours. They just attached themselves to you, back there, on the bridge, because those they had spoken to no longer remember them. Pasts, like dogs and people, can be homeless, too. That’s okay. Like a mother whose child is away, you can host them, hoping that, should something happen, someone will take your loved one in as well. There must be nothing worse than (voluntarily or not) losing memory and losing memories. That’s when you’d have to rely on the kindness of random strangers on stone bridges. Come home, voices. The moon is Ice Full.

King’s College in the moonlight from the Backs. From an old postcard
(between 1880 and 1940). King’s College Library, Cambridge. CMR/241/17

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