Monday, September 12, 2011

still-sound 5. Full Moon

There is a full moon tonight, in fact it's the Harvest Moon.  I suspected as much when I walked the dog yesterday and noticed the almost-full moon hovering above Elysian Park.  September moons have caught my attention in past years as well.  They appear particularly big and bright, almost impossibly-so.  The air feels ripe for some kind of a celebration - and in many other cultures the Harvest Moon calls for one, but I suppose in the West we don't really pay much attention to things like that.

Two years ago we took a trip to Wiltshire.  During the ten years I lived in England I never managed to visit Stonehenge although I always meant to.  I was too busy drinking wine and watching telly in our one-bedroom flat in SE4.  Since leaving England I've come to fictionalize the country in a way, romanticizing certain aspects of the geography and culture. I'm more interested in the England of leylines and Morris dancers. Samphire and stone circles.  I've somehow erased the realities of Tesco, the Oyster card and discarded chicken bones on the streets of New Cross that my dog consistently noticed well before I ever got to. 

The trip to Wiltshire was specifically devoted to mythic England.  We followed leylines from Avebury to Saint Michael's Mount in Cornwall. We met a man named Peter who showed us West Kennet Longbarrow.  We entered the prehistoric cave and took turns standing against the stone doorway separating us from something beyond while Peter played a rhythm on a shaman's drum.  He described how he and his mates regularly snuck to the top of Silbury Hill and drummed all night against the backdrop of a full moon.  If I lived in Wiltshire I would be joining them.  I decided to take more notice of the moon's cycles, perhaps let them permeate my subconsciousness.  I wanted to start relating time to natural cycles rather than to a calender.

Shiragiku and Kyara Seiran by Seijudo

I was interested in the Shiragiku incense by Seijudo because I read that it contains a beautiful expression of kyara (a high-grade aloeswood) despite not containing actual kyara (according to the brand's description). The sticks are remarkably thin and hard, like graphite refills for a pencil.  The scent is breathtaking.  Dry, pure and woodlike.  To my nose it smells of kyara.  A subtle sweetness, comparable to a toasted marshmallow floats in the background.  I immediately recognized this as special and decided to only burn it on full or new moons.  Shiragiku's name in English, White Chrysanthemum seems to relate to it poetically rather than literally - the scent isn't at all floral.  That the image of a white chrysanthemum resembles the glowing circle of the full moon further emphasized that this was to be my lunar incense from now on.

I ordered a mini-stick sampler of the Kyara Seiran (or Heavenly Orchard) by Seijudo for the sake of comparison to Shiragiku.  It's considerably more expensive because it officially contains kyara.  I didn't expect it to smell like an orchard and it doesn't.  Admittedly I haven't spent much time with Seiran because I'm happy to take my time focusing attention on the white chrysanthemum.  Seiran is more dear so I suspect the raw materials are purer and will produce even more nuanced, transcendent scents - although it's hard to imagine anything that much more beautiful than Shiragiku.  Nevertheless I shall wait for a rare, extraordinary event to experience Seiran - perhaps a total eclipse. 

The Harvest Moon, 7:30 pm, 12 September 2011

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