The pre-Azan call to prayer fills the dark street like the billowing smoke from an electronic cigarette. Time to wake up for sahur. Puasa feels quiet this year. I have not been to a Param, and I have not also encountered a Param traffic jam, where people park their cars hastily by the roadside and make their way to foodstalls – whether or not they puasa. The first week, I was avoiding eating out during buka puasa time, anticipating a crowd and wanting to make space. But I realised that only the banners are loud. The only places with more people than usual are the late night mamaks and warungs. Maybe it’s one of the first aching signs of a creaking economy, where leaders have so little regard for the machination of running a nation where the people are okay, that here we are. Little by little, occupying and making do with less and less. So slowly, that we feel it like a background headache that suddenly becomes a debilitating migraine.
Yesterday morning I woke up to my bamboo tree and bougainvillea plant suddenly shedding all of their leaves. I didn’t have the heart to sweep them. And they laid there, slowly dispersed by the warm, intermittent breeze. Their form still visible – the ghost of branches that were once alive. But I just swept them now, under the light of a Sagittarius full moon, which is hanging brightly behind a layer of clouds that disperses its light into soft, inky swirls and ripples. It seems that every full moon, this is the cloud layer that holds its journey across the sky. And I spend hours, simply, staring. Seeing how it changes shape, and shifts the entire sky and space as the clouds move across it in a different pace. A distance that has no meaning, unless viewed from here.
And it makes me think of layers, of curtains that bring an object into a sharper focus. That a lone full moon in a clear sky, especially in a suburb with dirty orange light that rubs out stars, is somehow, less spectacular. And maybe it is because of its slow pace, that I cannot discern unless I have infinite discipline, and unless there is another layer whose pace is between us. And maybe this is why we have the compulsion to always adorn, to seek company. To be boundaried and dispersed through something that is other than who we are. That we may be seen more clearly. Or that we may see ourselves, more clearly.
There is a story I heard tonight, about protection, about invisibility, about shape-shifting humans and cats. A story that is as real as this land. And the people who bring their magic across seas and oceans and embed them as seeds that have become forests, and which are now, being chopped down to make space for concrete. It is not my story, so I can’t speak it here. But it is not an unfamiliar story, although it is the first time I am hearing it with such clarity and detail. From the distance of shifting space between memories and stories embodied within people. That pulls it into focus, that disperses the layers between the threads of stories that become a shared history. A universe that is worn like skin.
Apparently tonight’s full moon is about lessons learnt from the past two years about boundaries. And about endings that are hard, but necessary. For the wisdom of boundaries. Which contain within it, the generosity of love. A moon bound up against an ocean of clouds that have no edges across the sky, but are lined by ripples. And so we travel, essentially alone, yet always, in the layered company of others.