February 5 – 18, 2018
Mount Washington — Moonlight had streamed in the windows all night, at times brilliant, from a clear sky, then muted through haze or clouds and falling snow. It was the eve of the Super Blue Moon Eclipse. I was looking forward to going out at dawn to see the eclipse of the second full moon of the month, but when last Wednesday morning, Jan. 31, arrived, I wrestled with sleep to get out of bed at 5:45 a.m. Once up, while I pulled on my woodswoman garb in the dark, friends across the country, I would later learn, were rising before dawn and themselves moving into position to view the once-in-150-years event.
Debbie, in Santa Rosa, California, met a small group of colleagues at 4 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on a prominence leveled by the recent fires. Ron, in New Jersey, rolled out of bed close to 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, drove around the block to a schoolyard and met the blazing, golden orb, its top in shadow, pictured here. Peter, also in New Jersey, drove to the hilltop above his house, rolled down his car window and captured the stages of moonset on camera.
Here in the Berkshires, opening my door to a frigid 8 degrees at 6 a.m., the sparkle of red star Arcturus above a hemlock grove turned my head to the south. No stars were visible through clouds at zenith as I walked in the snow-blanketed, hilly Taconic landscape to the best view to the west-northwest that I can reach on foot, half a mile from my home: I found the sky overcast. I had 20 minutes to explore further afield before the eclipse would begin. I walked home, got in my car and drove a few miles to another, perhaps better, view. There the moon was suspended in a clear sky, but my optimism soon vanished as a thick band of clouds appeared in the moon’s path at about the time the eclipse was predicted to become noticeable. Cold and dispirited, I headed home.
On the way, I stopped at my first viewing location to study the sky. The luminous orb slipped out from underneath a bank of clouds. In the twilight hush, the moon dropped downward at a measured pace. Was the dark smudge on its upper left a remnant of the clouds? No, it was discernibly a shadow – Earth’s shadow – covering that bit of the moon, keeping the sun’s light from reaching it.
Witnessing the glowing sphere move ever so steadily, I realized that I had taken hold of the orb: I was moving with this celestial body. The contact seemed to come from my heartbeat: steady, wholly sure, in touch with nature. I experienced, fleetingly, three-dimensional seeing, glimpsing the alignment of Moon, Earth–with myself a part of the planet–and Sun moving in space.
My eyes followed the moon until the last ember disappeared between twigs on the forested skyline.