I woke up early, 3:15am, and was instantly wide awake. There was going to be a total lunar eclipse, and I wanted to be sure to see it. I knew the eclipse wasn’t starting until 5:15, and I knew I should go back to sleep until then, but I was too full of anticipation to return to sleep. I was also worried about the weather, not that worry accomplishes anything, and not that I have any control over the weather, worried or not. It had been pouring a few hours earlier (we got an inch of rain in the earlier part of the
night), but, to my relief, the clouds were starting to clear away by the time I padded
onto the damp deck in my bare feet. The moon was hanging round and bright in the sky just above the trees to the west of our house, with silvery clouds scudding to the east. No sign of earth’s dark shadow crossing the moon yet, so I went back inside to make some tea and start a pot of oatmeal cooking.
After frequent checks to be sure the clouds were indeed departing (perhaps by wishing I could make them leave faster?), at 5:10 I settled into my camp chair on the deck, sketchbook in hand, with nickel-sized circles drawn down the page. There were still a few clouds, but they mostly stayed out of the way. As I watched, a small bite disappeared from the upper left of the moon. Over the minutes the small bite became a steadily growing, curved shadow. (Later I read that that curve, which is cast by the curved surface of the earth, was some of the earliest evidence that the earth is round, not flat).
I watched in silence and marveled at the silence. Not that the night was silent– crickets chirped, leaves rustled in the breeze, the muffled sounds of distant traffic filtered through the woods– but the tremendous event in the sky transpired in silence. Of course that is always the case, but watching the earth’s shadow overtake the moon and knowing the immensity of these celestial bodies, it struck me anew how mighty they are. And yet, they move and interact in silence, so easy to miss if one isn’t watching.
I watched and sketched from my deck
until the moon was too low behind the trees, then I drove to a nearby
hill and watched until just before sunrise, when I could no longer see
the moon (which was about to set by then). I ran out of space on my page
toward the end, so just took notes of the final stages before the sun rose– next time I will use a larger sketchbook.
I’ve seen total eclipses of the moon before, and every time I am filled with wonder and delight. It was well worth having a short night; I hope I never sleep through such an amazing sight and never lose my sense of awe at witnessing these celestial events.