Hope and the Maiden Moon

Early evening, as the light began to fade, I stood in Borthwood Copse at Queen’s Bower on the Isle of Wight. This ancient woodland is home to sturdy old oaks with deep rutted bark and branches that curl and twist into the distinctive, crimped appearance of long-lived trees.   At the heart of the Copse is also a beautiful beech cathedral: a spacious grove of elegant trees whose aging trunks have not so much thickened as soared. There is a noticeable abundance of holly, the green conspicuous amongst so much winter bareness.

Standing upon a deep drift of leaves, the antlered mesh of oaks above me, I watched the crescent moon brighten as the darkness deepened. The evening star, Venus, kept close company, its white brilliance framed by the forest canopy.

Walking back along the green lane, down towards the wetlands in the valley, the golden layer of light in the west was tightly pressed against the horizon, weighed down by a bank of cloud; the world took on an otherworldly light, sung into being by a blackbird.

Crossing the boardwalk across the water meadows, I entered the steep woodland enclosure of Alverstone Mead, a haven for red squirrel. By now the darkness had fallen. I love being in the woods as night comes. I feel safe; enclosed and contained in a world that – despite my inadequate senses – feels welcoming and known. Walking along the ledge of the path – aware of the ground falling sharply away on one side and rising on the other – I felt, just briefly, that I could navigate anything life sent me.

Walking down from the Mead towards the old railway path that cuts through the Yar River valley, I noticed the watery channels that meander through the fields, catching the last dim light of day. I was drawn back in my mind to the night before New Year’s Eve, the first time I had caught a glimpse of this month’s new moon. It was another breathtaking evening, the sky clear and coloured in pastilles; the slender curve of the moon and Venus set low above the downs, greying with mist. Each month, whenever I catch sight of the Maiden Moon for the first time, I say a prayer of thankfulness for her gift of courage and freedom, for her reminder that all things can begin again. That fragile crescent never fails to fill me with joy and hope.

As the Middle East rages, and upheaval and suffering are played out all around our planet -inexorably it seems- it felt apt for the New Moon to fall around the New Year. As arbitrary as these markings of time might be, there is still some power in them, and there seems to me to be a great poignancy in the new moons of winter. When life appears caught in stasis, the tender light of a maiden moon never lets us forget that the possibilities of change present themselves to us all. We have to be vigilant, looking in all the right places, paying some attention to timing also. So often I miss her first appearance because I forget to look for her, or cloud might obscure her presence.  In our forgetfulness, in the sometimes overwhelming demands of living, it is easy to lose sight of faith and hope.

Stood in the magical half light of Borthwood, brought sharply into the present – into my body and being- by the bitter cold, and with the moon grinning down upon me, I said a prayer of hope for this bright, sliver of a new born year.


1 Comment

  1. trish said,

    January 8, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Again, most wonderful and fullof faith, hope and clarity. I can really feel the woods and being there.

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