The pull of the tide

Saturday August 08, 2020 Written by Published in Weekend
This week’s full moon, photographed at 1 o’clock in the morning from Ngatangiia.  KATRINA TANIRAU 20080732 This week’s full moon, photographed at 1 o’clock in the morning from Ngatangiia. KATRINA TANIRAU 20080732

Late at night once a month, whether it’s warm or cold, a small group of people gather quietly on the beach at Muri. They talk, then they walk into the lagoon and dive below the surface. What drives these Full Moon Swimmers? 

Ruth Tangiiau Mavé hands around a bag of one-word cards that can be used as an inspiration for the month – words like “harmony”, “truth”, “education” or “adventure”.

Those present draw out a card. “Oh, I need some of that in my life right now,” they will say.

This sets the undercurrent for each month’s Full Moon Swim at Muri.

“In life we get so busy that we forget to smell the roses,” says Mavé.

The last full moon was on August 2 – called a Sturgeon moon after an old prehistoric fish that swims in North America.

Mavé says each full moon has a name, usually originating from common seasonal agricultural or nature occurrences, like the sprouting of antlers on deer, spawning time of fish and flowers that bloom.

It was in March this year that a few planned their first Full Moon Swim. The first swim was to celebrate International Women’s Day – and for men to celebrate the women in their lives.

Mavé, the organiser, says she has always been fascinated by the full moon and when she started travelling overseas it was one way her mum and her would connect. Looking at the moon, they knew the other would be seeing the same moon within a 12-hour period.

“It is something I still feel.”

Mavé did her first full 12 months of full moon swims in 1994 in Queenstown, New Zealand, where at this time of the year there was ice on the stones around Lake Wakatipu and snow on the mountains

One participant, Georgie Hills, says night-swimming always has a special quality about it – and it's made doubly so, when there's a full moon shining down. 

In winter, no one spends too much time in the water, and last week it was so cold on the beach that she delayed going into the water.

“But when I finally dived in, I was surprised by how warm the water was,” she says. “Above me, I could see the light seeping through the water’s surface and it was stunning. I came up for air with a big smile on my face – magic!”

For some, full moon swimming sounded a bit “kooky”, says Hills, but that is part of the appeal.

“When Ruth started it up, I thought, I've got to check this out! It's often a contemplative and relaxed experience to share with other people. Being in the water and appreciating our natural environment helps me get into a good headspace for the month to come.”

The full moon is a very visual reminder of time passing, Mavé says.

“It affects us all due to its gravitational pull on all water bodies on earth, from oceans and tides to our own bodies, which are made up of 90 per cent water,” she explains.

“I myself am not a water person so to go swimming is one thing, to do it at night in the ocean is a big deal for me.”

There have been a couple of times this year when it has been windy, cold and raining but they still swam and found more often than not the lagoon was warmer than expected. 

“There is a warm layer sitting on the top and there are patches of warm water that flow with the currents. The idea is to meet to take ourselves away from life dramas and sit on the beach and really look up at the moon and wonder.”

In the warmer months they would chat on the beach then submerge in the water and float around chatting some more, in hushed and calm conversations.

At the moment with this cooler weather they meet earlier, have a chat on the beach wrapped up warmly, then venture into the water and frolic for a bit – then come out and home to a warm cup of tea. 

“The process gives a sense of cleansing and starting again with a fresh approach to what is going on in our lives.”

Mavé says others are now doing their own “moon bathing” at their own spots on the island, some in front of where they live.

The moon plays a part in many lives, she adds, from “moon time” for women, or planting kumara crops, to feeling a little loony (lunar) around the full moon due to the gravitational pull.

“We are all affected even if we don’t know it. Some say the sun is a male energy, extroverted, and the moon a female energy, introverted.”

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