tortoiseshell cat in the moonlight
shimmering all colours
……………………….and none

Ron Heard


This is a fascinating haiku. Cats in moonlight have been known to conjure a sense of mystique. Some say we don’t see colours in moonlight; well, they need to look more closely. Colours can be seen by moonlight though usually with less saturation. I say usually because in certain states of mind colours are likely to be enhanced, even in the darkness of night. Hallucinations, dreams and a healthy imagination can present rich experiences of colour apparent only in the mind of the one experiencing them. Hallucinations, dreams and imagination can arguably give us glimpses into deeper realities. What is often taken to be normal perception is not necessarily a truer window on ‘the world out there’ as perceptual experience is always embedded in a range of psychological factors including belief and world-view. Once you know the world is numinous it can appear that way.

I love this tortoiseshell cat in the moonlight shimmering all colours and none. It seems to be a kind of enchantment, gorgeous to my imagination. While chatting with my neighbour recently I was distracted by my own cat perched on a fence post. The longer wisps of his orange fur, filled with the light of the setting sun, shimmered in the breeze. My neighbour seemed quite oblivious of the cat’s glorified state while I was having vague thoughts of e=mc².

Though we may have a long way to go in our endeavours to understand the deeper realities of the cosmos, a sense of awe and mystery is certainly a legitimate response to the insights of contemporary science. Perhaps poets have been onto something all along.

First published: paper wasp, December 2000

Selection and comments by Simon Hanson