From Borneo and Around

This blog is all about Borneo (and sometimes elswere) as I experience it. It's about places, people, fauna, food ... and anything I find pleasantly worth sharing in words and pictures.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


There is a woman on the moon, her name is Chang’e and she keeps a rabbit.

She’s been there since she lost her beloved husband on earth and became eternally lonely, except that is for the little rabbit.  When she was still a mere mortal, she lived a great passion for Hou Yi who had been sent by the King of Heaven to save the earth from being burnt down under the unforgiving rays of no less than ten suns. Armed with a red bow and a collection of white arrows, Hou Yi had shot nine suns and life on our planet had finally become humanly bearable under one sun that is still shining on us today.                                   
When Hou Yi and Chang’e were given an elixir of eternity by the Western Queen Mother, Hou Yi died of a violent death (there are different versions of his death) and Chang’e drank the potion that gave her eternal life and lifted her towards Heaven. When she reached the moon she decided to stay there and watch over her old world where she had lived a great love.
Chang’e became the Chinese moon goddess and her rabbit a powerful healing spirit praised for once riding into Beijing in the shape of a young girl riding a horse (or was it a tiger, or lion?) and saving millions of people from a deadly epidemic that ravaged the imperial city.

While her Chinese name is Chang’e, the Greeks too revered her as Selene and later as Artemis or Hecate and the Romans called her Diana. The moon, however, was not always identified as a woman; indeed it was the sun that was given feminine attributes while the moon, which was then positioned much closer to earth, was believed to possess more male-like qualities. In time and as the moon raised higher in the sky, it seemed to have been affected with a sex change; that’s when most languages started referring to it as “she”: la Luna, la lune, while acknowledging “her” as the recipient of the great unconscious from which life once emerged and the embodiment of the feminine principle in life itself.

I can’t recall when I started feeling charmed by the moon, its beautiful appearance in the night sky and its sobering light and I find it, oh, so uncanny to think that the new year on the Chinese lunar calendar will start precisely on my birthday with the wolf moon (read this Shakira!) and be dedicated to the healing moon rabbit! Because of this I’d like to imagine that 2011 will be a feminine year, with more sensitivity born from wisdom rather than the bullish attitude that was expected for this last year; a time for us to tend to our earth garden and care for the human family.                                                                      
For a long time I have been contemplating starting my own moon garden near our pond; sad that I haven’t yet found the time or enough motivation to do it. Perhaps I have been waiting for a blue moon (when there is a second full moon within one month) that I keep missing or else it is simply not meant to be and perhaps too, what the moon really wants is not a mere private garden where she could shine her soft rays, but a whole collective and global garden instead. Think about it, it is not un-achievable and it certainly makes more sense to me than to answer a “MOON FOR SALE” advertisement with the intention of buying an acre on the moon. Now who’s been moonstruck?
This is a beautiful vision of a moon garden from Tatiana Hardie’s novel The Rose Labyrinth followed by an Iban legend on the genesis of Borneo where I have made my home. 

Lucy’s finger looped along the spiral Diana had created in her fountain. Made of mirrored glass, it picked its shiny path through a pattern of blues and ruby reds all mosaiced from broken china plates so carefully color matched that Lucy realised they’d been purposely broken. The fountain was shallow, edged with shells; and Lucy was reminded of the Lady of Shalott working in reflections to weave her embroidery, as the silver shards reflected the sky and the landscape all around it. She traced the route to Venus in the center, and thought of Alex’s gentle fingers curving along her scar around her breast, circling her heart. The motion itself was sensual, mesmerising, a gesture of mystery.                                                                                                                         The sun doesn’t preside here. Its vitality is essential for the roses; but even at midsummer, when the smell is over-powering, my mother would bring me out long after the shade had deepened to prove that the scent was strongest, most alluring, in the evening. All the flowers are night-scented. Under the moon’s light the white roses are luminous, almost palpably so. The moon-dial makes it midday at midnight. The fountain reflects down the stars: a fragment of heaven on earth. The spirit of this garden is female. My mother created this space to express another view of the world, and subvert the norm. The sun is consort, and a vital partner, but not the sovereign lord. It wasn’t enough for us to understand it cerebrally: she needed us to witness it.” (...) “Maybe because hers was a house of men”.


                - _ -

IBAN LEGEND:                                                          
The Owl and the Moon                                                                            
This is a story from very ancient times, when the moon was still identified as a male.
A long, long time ago, so the Iban people of Sarawak like to tell their children, the moon had married the only living creature on earth, an owl on the island of Borneo. Soon they had a child: a moon color owl.                                                                                                 Sadly, as the moon ascended higher and higher in the sky hence making nights much shorter on earth, the couple finally gave up on an impossible schedule to be together. When they finally decided to end their union, they agreed to split the child; and so they did, into two halves which they scattered separately across the sky and we can still see at night as stars and all over the land of Borneo where they are still cherished as the trees of the great Rain Forest.


Singing off...

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