The odds of moon-watching in February around the South Sound aren't usually so very good but last night we hit the celestial lottery...a front row seat to, not only the last beautiful full moon of winter, but also a breath-taking full lunar eclipse. For three hours we watched the dance of the universe above Joe's Bay, TV and dishes forgotten.
La Bella Luna rose over the mouth of the bay, just visible between the trees that line our neighbour's driveway. Already a shadow was caressing her cheek and she began to blush, though still lighting the water and sky. By the sounds of things people were gathering down on A street, at water's edge, for the show. If I had known the night would be so clear, I would've invited friends to our wonderful back deck at the Aerie.
As the moon ruddied in the earth's shadow I could see more of her true orb shape, rather than the flat disc of light she often appears to be against the sky's indigo curtain. Stars, planets, even swirls of the Milky Way burst into twinkling light over the darkened countryside. Small planes over the Sound looked like slow-motion shooting stars...oh, what a night to be flying! Even standing on our deck I felt as if it were the bridge of a huge starship, the night dark and eternal in front of me.
I thought of our ancestors and the fear of these mysterious celestial happenings before the movements of the solar system were known. Christopher Columbus was able to frighten Caribbean natives into doing his will by predicting a lunar eclipse three days before. He told them it would be a sign from his angry God for refusing to take care of him and a large, hungry crew.
Here in the twenty-first century, the sight of a lunar eclipse no longer brings anyone to their knees in fear of the world ending but it is still a most incredible, awesome, humbling vision. We are made suddenly and dramatically aware that, yeah, we're hanging in space, not seeing a painted backdrop to the human world of illusion. In that realization we become focused on our sense of being instead of doing. In the ballet of light and shadow, we are made aware that humans are a small but integral part of something so much greater.