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Full moon walking

 

 

7.25 p.m. September 18 th : The Banyan appears surreal, lit from below by the incandescent bulbs.
It is the night of the full moon. Slowly the walkers amble in, seating themselves under the silent roots in quiet anticipation.
The moonlight walk tonight w ill be my first.The Unity Work Team members have been running the programme for over a year and a half. It always gave me a warm feeling – reading the announcement each month – but I have never managed to make it this far before.

Rising out of the inky blackness of the East, the moon shimmers from behind a hazy streak of clouds. Matrimandir in the foreground appears like a pin-cushion; the scaffolds sticking out like needles, like energy fields…. From where I sit, I hardly can see any gold disc, only the pristine whiteness of the water-proof Kemperol broken by polka dots of milky portholes.
To contemplate that we have been working at this for over 30 years… and how much more… My mind is too noisy. “Quiet down – you are supposed to be meditating!”

I shut my eyes; my ears tune in to the sounds around.
A hungry skeeter noisily whining by my ear scouting for a spot to land... the velvety rustle of the girl by my side rubbing her feet in the grass… the sudden screech of a barn owls from the dark branches above… the drumbeat from a marriage festivity at some village far away and an accompanying burst of a firecracker… even my pen scratching at the page of my journal…
From some village to the west, an old Tamil film song seeps in through the night air, intense and fading moment to moment, spilling verse of universal morals… There is a strange amalgam of mystery as we sit in the silence of the Matrimandir with the spirit of the local people strong in the air. People continue to trickle in, some noisily, with voices breaking the charged stillness. “Ssshhh,” goes one of the organizers. My thoughts slowly subside.

Finally there is a stirring – we're ready to move.
The moon lies shy, still hidden behind the wash of clouds.
The crickets get louder, their high-pitch hum deafening to the ears. I have no idea what I am in for.
We gather around and Fabrice quietly instructs us, “We'll be going through the forests. There will be a few stops. We'll return back here for refreshments.” He adds, “And please keep silent during the walk.”
I expect a counting of heads, but there is none… What if one of us gets lost in the forest?! A frantic thought pops in my head. It's too late; we begin the w alk.

The African Enterolobian tree at the town hall junction is sleeping, its compound leaves tightly folded and closed. Finally unveiled, the moon shines brightly now . We walk to wards it…
I begin to see how quickly this walk may get addictive… A piebald dog joins us, trotting along, weaving in between our legs. It stops now and then, sniffing, taking detours, also silent…
Suddenly for a brief moment, a scent like a skunk's fills the air - perhaps the spray of a civet cat… It is intense… In the darkness, my vision recedes, and my nose and ears seem to expand beyond my body.
The night's aromas magnify; the night jasmine ready for the moths, the moist sarsaparilla roots under the earth, even the quirky human smells – the light gardenia perfume of a young woman, or the sharp musky sweat of a lanky chap ahead. The sense of time fades away. Only a faint rhythm of crunching soil grains underfoot keep a beat…

We pass by my jogging route – we must be close to Samriddhi I tell myself. At the old cashew tope , the group stops. It is an open field with a few straggling trees, and the moon beams rain down with intensity. It is glorious and for the first time, I notice an enormous halo appearing around it. Our gazes are turned upwards; like baying wolves our collective chins are lifted; only we are silent. Even the dog stands still…

It's the final stretch – from behind Surrender , between Arati and Invocation , we begin the march back. The fluorescent dial of my watch shows we have walked over an hour. I take my chappals off – it is familiar terrain and I know the path will be sandy and soft on tired soles. My steps get buoyant; and I find myself filled with an unusual energy… The moon now behind us, our long shadows appear to race ahead. Back past the sleeping Enterolobian and through the Matrimandir gates to the welcoming fragrance of the rain-tree blossoms.

We collapse on the grassy knoll under the wisdom tree; I am elated, somewhat disoriented but slowly grounding. Someone offers a glass of power syrup juice … My thoughts switch on noisily again – so when in October is full moon night?

 

Priya Sundaravalli

(From an article on Auroville Today, October 2005)

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