Lunar eclipse provides a heavenly experience

I don’t remember what I was dreaming about. I think it was something pleasant. All of a sudden, the alarm went off with a panic-inducing siren. You would have thought the house was on fire. I sat up quickly, with adrenaline pumping through every cell in my body. In a few seconds, I realized it was the alarm clock I had set just five hours ago when I had gone to bed.

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A while back, I had picked up somewhere that there was going to be a “blood moon” today. There is something about a full moon, or any phase of the moon really, that always has drawn me to it. Seems I’m always searching the night sky to see where my moon brother is sitting. Many nights I watched his travel as he slid slowly across the sky. I don’t get a big showing of his rising from my house. Out here, he starts out buried behind the forest’s trees. I’ve watched as he peeks out from the thickness of the trunks, playing a kind of hide-and-seek game with me. But once he breaks the tops of the trees and is among the branches, he seems to put himself into second gear and increases his speed; kind of like how going along a picket fence clicks off your speed, making it seem faster. I have lain in bed many nights peeking out of sleepy eyes, with each peek seeing him move farther west. He’s always heading west.
Getting up before my body and mind do is never enjoyable. Fortunately, since high school graduation, I have not had to very often. While raising my kids, getting up early to get them off to school was pretty much the time my body’s natural alarm clock went off anyway. The truth is, I only have used an alarm clock a few times in my life. Once I knew what time I needed to get up, my mind and body just did it. Maybe it is because I am such a light sleeper, and in my childhood, I had my mom to wake me.
This morning was different, though. This was something I did not want to miss. So I slid across the bed and turned off the alarm with a smile growing on my face. After all, 5:00 a.m. wasn’t really all that early anyway. My biggest fear was it would still be cloudy and overcast, and I’d not get to see this wonderful phenomena: a total eclipse of the moon, a “blood moon.”
As I walked into the living room, it was not as bright as I had hoped. Was there cloud cover blocking my brother and his light, which usually floods the house? I walked out onto the back deck and looked around the corner of the house.
There he was, dim but shining through a light cloud cover. As I stood and watched him, the clouds slid by, and gradually he became brighter. To the north were more clouds, but they, too, were broken up.
I went back into the house and put on my warm fleece sweatshirt. It was cold and my satin pajamas were no insulation or protection. From the deck, the moon was somewhat striped with tree branches, which gave it that “October look.” I almost expected to see a broomstick-riding witch passing in front of it.
The clouds were mostly gone from the front of it now. I stood gazing up like a starstruck child. But it wasn’t long before the cold really started to sink into me. I went back into the house, blowing on my hands to warm them. I rummaged through a drawer and pulled out a pair of jogging pants. I pulled them up over my pajamas and could instantly feel the warmth.
I decided the best view would be from the north yard, so I grabbed my binoculars and went out. I had a nice view of the moon and starry sky between the trees from there.
But as I stood there, the night cold started to settle in deeper. I remembered the mornings I sat in a nearby field, waiting for the sharp-tail grouse to come and do their ritual courtship dance, and how cold I would get while not moving. This morning felt much colder.
I went back into the house and got my camera. This was a big thing for me, and I wanted to capture it, to be reminded of this morning. In a short time, it began. At first, I thought a small cloud might be coming over the moon, but it was not a cloud—the eclipse had begun. A shadow began on the left upper part of the moon and gradually eased its way across. As I gazed, it seemed as if all the constellations in the sky were watching in awe. I think Orion actually eased off on the tight pull he had on his bow as he admired the moon along with me. The big dipper held its bowl toward the moon, as if it could catch its light. The stars seemed to hold their breath, and the deepening darkness of the sky magnified each one.
The shadow spread across the moon, ever so slowly. As I stood out there in the cold, an unexpected sadness poured over me. The whole time I was expecting and learning about this eclipse, I was happy to think I might get to witness it. I was grateful I had heard about it and was aware it was going to take place. I almost felt a debt to the astronomers who monitor such things and pass them on to us. I feel I live in a very privileged and enlightened time, astronomically speaking. So why this sadness? Perhaps because I was alone? It may have been nice to share this—then again, some things are better experienced alone, with no risk of trivial conversation distracting from what’s happening.
1411_lop_lunar_eclipse_1Cold was taking over my hands and feet. Chills were starting to run up and down my back and arms. Maybe more clothes were in order. So I went back into the house and dug out a pair of warm insulated pants and put them on right over my pajamas and sweatpants. From the same closet, I pulled out a down jacket. I hurried back out, not wanting to miss a thing. A few light clouds passed in front of the diminishing moon, but did not linger. As I stood staring up, straining to see the part of the moon that was shadowed, a meteorite shot down just to the left of the moon. How cool is this? I thought. But as the shadow got to where it had almost overtaken the moon’s light, the real treat came. Not exactly red, but more of a rosy color took over the moon shadow. It was almost as if it were blushing at first, but then deepened to a more sobering red color. It’s hard to describe.
Now there was just a thin, lighted line on the right side of the moon. Again, there felt a sadness to it. Then it was gone. Even with my binoculars I could barely find its circular shape in the sky. The moon was totally shadowed by the earth. Eclipsed.
The cold now had me shivering. I needed to go inside to warm up. I paced around the house for a bit, but I was too full of anticipation. I didn’t want to miss any part of this. So in just a few minutes I went back out into the yard. By then, the moon had dipped down into the horizon of the trees and was almost invisible behind the earth’s shadow. It was over. I would not get to see the sun returning to the face of the moon. Sunrise was not far away. Was the sun rising just as the moon was setting? Is this all a part of the experience? I guess, for me, it was.
I came back into the house chilled to the bone. I stuffed some crumpled newspaper into the woodstove, carefully placed some kindling on top, balanced some firewood on top of it all and lit a match. Right away I had a crackling fire, throwing off wonderful heat, chasing my chills away.
And so I sat in front of the fire’s radiating heat, much like the sun gives us. And as it warmed my face and body I felt like the moon—receiving light from someplace else. No eclipse here though. Nothing standing between me and the light source.
By the time I really started to warm up, the night sky had given over to morning’s light. The stars withdrew back to their daytime hiding places. The sun started peeking over the horizon of forest trees, lighting the tops like a spotlight. The lunar eclipse was over. Morning had come. And a new day had begun.

— Jude Holloway

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