I first read the book, South Moon Under, back in 1997.
At about that same time, Deb and I moved to our little log house in the town of Black Wolf, Wisconsin, and we began thinking of a nickname for our 3 little acres of green. It didn’t take long for the term “Southmoon” to win us over as our favored way of referring to our new place. As you read more about Rawling’s book, I’m confident you will see why the term has become special to us.
The book is a novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Most people recognize Rawlings as the author of her better known book, The Yearling. This book, made into a movie starring Gregory Peck, is the coming of age story of a young boy and his pet deer. The Yearling , is still a popular choice among young readers.
Others might recognize her name from still, another book, Cross Creek, which was also made into a movie back in 1983. It starred Mary Steenburgen as Marjorie Rawlings and tells of the region of Florida, known as Cross Creek.
My favorite Rawling’s title is South Moon Under. It was her first published novel in 1933. It is a story of an impoverished family trying to get by in the scrub pine wilderness of northern Florida. The book takes its title from an expression used by the hunters in the region to describe a particularly good time to hunt game. The book’s title is explained by way of a young teenage boy, Lantry, named after his grandfather. Young Lant, as he is called, is on his way back to the cabin after a night of hunting deer. His world consists of observing how nature acts and reacts. There are forces, observable and unobservable, which elicit a response from all who live in the scrub of North Florida. And Lant continues his musing along the trail back home…
“On the way home he considered the deer and the moon. He considered the fish and the owls. The deer and the rabbits, the fish and the owls stirred at moon-rise and at moon-down; at south-moon-over and at south-moon-under. The moon swung around the earth, or the earth swung around the moon, he was not sure. the moon rose in the east and that was moon-rise. Six hours later it hung at its zenith between east and west, and that was south-moon-over. It set in the west and that was moon-down. Then it passed from sight and swung under the earth, between west and east. And when it was directly under the earth, that was south-moon-under.
He could understand that the creatures, the fish and the owls, should feed and frolic at moon-rise, at moon-down and at south-moon-over, for these were all plain marks to go by, direct and visible. He marveled, padding on bare feet past the slat-fence of the clearing, that the moon was so strong that when it lay the other side of the earth, the creatures felt it and stirred by the hour it struck. The moon was far away, unseen, and it had power to move them. “ p. 109-110
I find in this simple term, south-moon-under, a metaphor for God’s unseen ways in reaching into our lives even when we are unaware of His presence. How often I have felt this prompting, this directing of God. Even when the glow of God’s presence has become hidden underneath the clutter of my world, I know He is there. I accept His consistent presence even when I’m oblivious to Him. I go about my life not being altogether conscious of Him but somehow I know He is there all the same. I feed and I frolic and I flounder, but I accept His call to holiness and purpose, even in my oblivion. Even though I can’t explain it, I think it all about His grace. The order to my universe is not about what I’m doing but what He is doing.
I’m reminded of Paul, who said,
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5: 8
Which is to say…..that even when I had God tucked under the darkest part of my sin, he was there, compelling me to respond to His call…to respond to His love…to respond to His movement in my life.