We were all warned: the Earth, Moon, and Sun would be lining up today and there would be a spectacular lunar eclipse. Lucky us, we have an observatory in Cincinnati. Luckier us, the observatory is located two blocks away from my house.
I set my alarm clock for 5 a.m., put on the coffee, primed my husband and anticipated the event as if it were a birthday party. Woke up at 4, not time yet. Woke up at 4:30, not yet. I peeked at the light coming in my window at 4;45, it was brilliant, painting the cascade of poplar leaves with silver and spilling out on the lawn as if the power was turned up and it was alerting the world,”Something great is about to happen!”
It was hopeless and so I stumbled downstairs and watched the coffeemaker spew and steam. My husband was close behind and already in his clothes. “How’s the coffee and how’s the moon?” He laughed. “Not ready yet,” I observed and really believed what I had just said.
I strolled out onto the porch with my first cup of the day and looked up expecting to see that glowing disk from 20 minutes ago AND THERE WAS ONLY A CLIPPED FINGERNAIL OF A MOON SHOWING! She had been quenched to a low glow and it was time!
“Gordie! Come out here now!” I called to my husband who dashed out and said,”It’s time to go!” We sped out to the car and up to the observatory.
Now you might think that before 6 a.m. is a bit early for the average Joe to pick himself up just to see the moon, wrong…very wrong. There was a traffic waltz in progress. People with flashlights, signs for parking, lines to get into the observation telescope. There were well over 100 people milling around, maybe 200; and the News 7 cam was trained on the action from a telescoping pole in the air about 20′. Eye on the sky, it was kind of funny because the event was so much more important than the camera.
We milled around in front of the observatory. I tried to take a shot of it with my new iPhone 6 Plus but it was defeated by the distance, color, darkness, and subtlety of it all. All the phone could do was show a grainy pinkish dot. Not good enough. We felt we were wasting our time, there were 199 people ahead of us to see the eclipse and by the time we were to peer through the scope it would be noon. Better go back.
“We have the binoculars,” observed Gordon. Great idea. I had been told repeatedly that a good set of binoculars is an excellent telescope substitute. We returned to get them and have a good look.
I grabbed the binoculars while Gordon got a coffee. I ran out onto the deck, looking around for the moon and not finding it. Curses, it was just here! What the hell? Gordon came up behind me,”It’s between those two trees but look quick, it’s moving fast!” I glimpsed it and put the binoculars to my face.
A perfect pink pearl resting among pine branches was what I saw in the sights. You could just make out a hint of green in the black of the evergreens and that was glorious against the shell-apricot of the moon’s glow. Fat drops of water cascaded down from wet leaves overhead, reminding me that the moon is the mistress of the water element.
“Come on! Let’s get a better look. It is dropping like a rock, Gordon, and if we want our fill of it we are going to have to go after it,” I cried hustling out into the black street with the binoculars.
“Go on without me,” chuckled Gordon,”I’ve seen it and this coffee is more appealing to me.”
Off I trotted feeling that I had to find the moon and see her well. Dark and wet, autumnal and chilly, people walking their dogs and joggers, cars gliding around the streets to work and cute street lights, no moon. I searched and half trotted along and could not find her. I knew she was up there somewhere and I was going to keep looking.
Down the street, take a left, look up and over my shoulder. No moon. Further down the street, no moon. A car cruised by and its lights were brilliant and just then I saw what I had been looking for, that huge pink pearl.
I trained the binoculars on it and it came out in great detail. I could see craters, more like old pockmarks but softened by all that glow and bending light. The color was indescribably glorious; and it wasn’t just the color, it was the array from light to dark apricot and the curve of its presentation. The lightest side appeared as if there was fog rolling off it, which was an illusion of course but a pretty illusion. They call this a “Blood Moon” but I would rather call it a Pearl Moon for all its low shimmer glow.
I stood there for about 10 minutes in the gloom admiring the lunar show and being grateful for its presence. I saw her roll into the tree branches and roll out again, I admired its dignified motion, and knew that it was not just one color which made this scene special but the array of that light orange to dark that cast the spell this morning.
Time lapsed and it was morning in earnest. I turned home and came in with wet shoes. “Was it wonderful,” asked Gordon. “Yes,” I replied heading for the coffee pot after putting the binoculars away.
Now I am watching the sun come up. The world is emerging as a place where autumn is turning leaves and the scene yellow. Our witchhazel is blooming with confetti yellow blossoms making little stars on the branches, and sending out an odd smell like cloth. I like to pretend that the moon cast a spell on my backyard and turned the leaves from dark late summer green to fall yellow, and all the world became autumnal, thicker atmosphered, and cool for snuggling.
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