A midnight walker takes a stroll beneath the moon through Kerry.
|It was a cool and still night at the tail end of August near Dunquin in west Kerry. The sky was decorated with silver wispy whales illuminated by the bulbous, full moon. They splashed stars across the deep blue expanse that conceals us at night. It paints the glossy, rolling hills in lilac and mother of pearl. If you watch carefully, you may often spy the face of a man looking back at you. Do not be afraid, he means you no harm.
At night, the hills, quagmires and lowlands, so alive in the daylight, are silent as the grave, save for the faint roar of the swell in the distance. Morning frost is sprayed across the fields like glass that glistens and glints. Cottages around here are speckled like daisies in earliest spring across the landscape. In one of these cottages, a lady lay in bed. She slept on her back, facing the ceiling with her head tilted elegantly to the side; her long, silky hair spread out around her like a halo on a stained glass window.
She slept with a window open, the curtains apart, and the moon illuminating the room in a faint lavender hue. It reached her face, which was not the face of somebody resting, as when asleep. No, her face was taught and grim. It was obvious that she had once been beautiful, but that years of some kind of relentless hardship had carved deep furrows into her brow, and crows had been at the edges of her eyes. She gnashed and chewed at some dreamed rope in her mouth, her jaw tight and pulsing. Her hands clamped tightly to her duvet.
Such tranquil nights in isolated areas will send you to the deepest and most peaceful of sleeps. Out here, you are far from everything: no traffic, no noise, no crowds. Nobody to hear or be heard by. But the woman tossed and turned, restless and anxious. It was the sort of unease that one carries around in both the daylight and moonlight, conscious or unconscious.
In the next room, a boy, perhaps five years old, lay peacefully asleep, perhaps dreaming something fantastically innocent. His bed sheets were wrapped between his bandy legs and he clung to his pillow. His plump, tickled pink cheeks carried youthful dimples. The walls of his bedroom were decorated with hot air balloons painted green, and they drifted through the azure sky of his dream at night. His lampshade cast bears onto the walls, as though they were passengers to the balloons, floating through the air. The moonlight had painted his sheets in pearly shades of powder blue like the glaucous of grapes.
Such gigantic moons as this cause a stir in certain people. It is said to decrease the quality of sleep, leaving one in a state of half consciousness. It denies you of the kind of sleep that brings you away from here and now, the kind of sleep that confronts you with unvarnished realities. But this was not the case with this lady; her face, weathered by the relentless wind and hail of an adverse existence, suggested that this was a boulder she had been pushing for many a night.
A full moon is also said to bring out peculiar behaviour in people, particularly those who suffer from other voices. It is said that a full moon will exert the same control over a human as it does the oceans; it draws pressure onto the brain.
I am one of these individuals, and I truly believe that it is the full moon that draws me to madness; draws me to the wind of the midnight blue. Just as it draws the tides to land, I cannot control my mind during these lunar phases. It is problematic, of course. I spend thirty days tormented by memories that are not my own. I pace through the corridors of my house, frightened by the idea that these scenes that greet me malevolently in my sleep have been directed and curated by my own autonomous hands. I remember such trivial detail, but cannot decipher conclusions, only the vague notion that some awful atrocity has been committed.
But a serene tickling of calmness holds me on the thirtieth night, and I often find myself icing my heels on the tarmac through the cool night with a new and seemingly unfounded enthusiasm. I move through the landscape, haunting the vicinity like a malicious vapour. For each month of loathsome terror and guilt and remorse, I take one night to prowl and stoke the fire.
And it was the full moon of August 1978 that first coaxed me from my bedroom and into the Kerry night. I wandered for perhaps several hours, perhaps just a few, and I found myself resting at a gate, staring wide-eyed into a quaint, though unoriginal little cottage. Thin little streams of smoke that trickled from the chimney licked at the glistening stars above. I watched as it swooned, joining the faint clouds up there. I noted the door, painted with blood, and I thought of exodus and the first Passover.
I found myself at the door of this cottage, removing my shoes. I placed my hand to the door, and then rested my head to the door.
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.”
I found that the door was unlocked, as they so often are in remote Ireland. I found myself watching this woman sleep but not rest in her bed. I found myself watching her child. And then I found myself wandering the fields, once more, in the silver of night.