Having been alerted by our astronomy teacher, I was looking forward to Sunday night’s lunar eclipse. According to him, if I remember correctly, it was going to be a good many years before this particular alignment would occur again: the moon at its closest point of orbit, this near the autumnal equinox and a couple of other things I can’t remember. The gist of it was that this one was going to be pretty spectacular.
As I drove along I-35 through the Flint Hills, I was still hoping for a cloudless night. In the sun’s last slipping into the horizon, the dust of dusk hung in the atmosphere gave a bright red glow to all of the western sky. Across the hills, the late stems of summer took on a softly-tinged cast of orange. The sun slipped away.
Running south on 77 a bit later, I saw the moon rise huge and white in the east. I thought briefly about the Thanksgiving nearly thirty years ago when I was hiking south on the wide plains of west Texas. That evening, I saw the sun and the moon on opposite horizons, both huge and round, a profound moment in a critical turning of my life.
After that brief reminiscence, I returned to the now rather than then. The moon rose higher but still full and bright. An occasional cloud passed between us but the image still carried. South of Winfield I saw the first tell of the coming eclipse, a small dent in the lip of the moon on its northern edge. By the time I finished unloading the truck, less than a third of the moon still showed. I could see, though, a faint glow of the shadowed rim.
There are some moments in life that we can see coming and know ahead of time they’re going to be awesome. We wait in anticipation, hoping that all goes well and that all will live up to our expectation. There are other moments that catch us barely alert and yet leave us changed in deep ways. All of them are part of life, part of our experience and part of who we become.
Let’s be thankful for all of them, whether it be the ones that come once in a lifetime or those as simple as a few friends gathered around a small fire in the first slight chill of autumn.