Running towards the Moon

by Sylvie Shaw



It was the morning of the Full Moon. I woke up early and went outside. It was still dark and the Moon hung over the horizon. Big. White. Round. Comforting. I didnít know how long it would stay there and I wanted to spend some time alone with it. Just me and the Moon.

The night before I had wanted to sleep outside but the mosquitoes were so bad I had to go indoors. Itís hard to sleep on the night of the Full Moon, thereís something about the light, the intensity, the brightness that keeps me awake or gives me a restless nightís sleep. This Full Moon was no exception.

I quickly pulled on my running shoes, headed along the Elwood Canal to the beach and straight towards the Moon. There was nothing between us. I sat and watched the Moon for a while then ran along the beach.

The beach is different every day. It seems to change with the phases of the Moon. Sometimes there are huge piles of seaweed washed up. At other times piles of shells. I love running on the hard sand at the edge of the water, listening to the gentle lapping of the waves, feeling the wind, collecting shells and watching the cormorants swoop and dive. One of my favourite images is the cormorants sitting on a sign which says: ĎDanger, No Divingí. Itís good they canít read.

I moved to Elwood nine years ago. I wanted somewhere with a corner of open space, not totally hemmed in by houses and fences. For fifteen years I had lived at Warrandyte, in a tiny fairy-tale cottage on the banks of the Yarra River. It is far from town and I suffered from the tyranny of distance and endless hours of travel to and from work each day. So I moved closer to town, bought a bicycle and planted a wonderful bush garden, a mini-version of the place I had left. I pulled down the garage, dug up the concrete and turned it into a vegetable garden.

But I still miss Warrandyte, the mist over the river and the early morning carolling of magpies.

When they cut down the big gums at the local park to make way for the Grand Prix car race circuit, a young magpie came and settled near me for a while. I fed it for a couple of months until it grew up and moved away. Now I wonder if the birds can find anywhere at all to nest. Or the possums. There are so few big trees around here, except for the ubiquitous European plane tree that surprisingly, to me, is sometimes home to the Crow.

In Native American culture the Crow is the bringer of magic, so I entice them down to feed and talk to them. I really think they might be ravens but ravens have blue eyes, at least the ones I know. These crows have yellow eyes. The kind of bird that hangs around with witches. They donít stay long but make a lot of noise when they land on the tin roof.

At night, if Iím lucky, I can hear the fruit bats shrieking raucously in a neighbouring gum tree. Last week as I stood by the back door watching the stars, I saw a shadow and heard the flap of wings as something large right past my nose.

Every night I go out to look at the sky. Despite the city lights I can still see my special stars - Alpha Centauri, Betelgeuse and Sirius. The Pleiades are harder to see but when I do, I canít help but marvel that so many cultures, all over the world, know them as the ĎSeven Sistersí. This is strange as I can only ever see six.

Sometimes running makes me sad. On stormy winter days I find small fairy penguins washed up on the sand. Usually I bury them in the bushes behind the beach. The banded penguins I take home to phone in their number. Itís exciting getting the report on where and when they were banded. From Phillip Island to Port Phillip Bay is a long swim for a small bird.

Going running can also make me angry. When the beach is littered with rubbish or I tune into the sounds of the city right behind me - the noise of huge trucks grinding through the gears and the endless traffic along Beach Road.

This week the Moon stays with me as I run. Watching over me and over the place where I live.

On my way home I pass two magpies dancing in the park. They drop a feather for me. I plant it in the garden as the Moon fades away.




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