Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Tumble Into Darkness
The hand-off of 2009 to 2010 was accompanied by a full moon (a full blue moon if I recall), and I love that image as a visual metaphor of year's end: one orb setting just as another rises, with you at the fulcrum, balanced between them, the past calling from one horizon, the future from another (Marilynne Robinson describes this much better than I in the opening pages of Gilead). The sky becomes a mirror of the mind. We watched the moon rise from the bluffs of the Arkansas last year, came home, celebrated the New Year six-ish hours later.
This December's lunar eclipse didn't fall on year's end, but it came the day before solstice, the day before the darkest day, and mirrored my own mental landscape so well it follows me into January, as I write this. Perhaps the sky is not the mirror. Perhaps I am the mirror.
Skies were cloudy, it was cold out, and I wasn't expecting much. But clouds began to clear as the eclipse started, just before midnight, so I fired up the clay stove and set up the big dumb telescope. Just before totality I woke the rest of the family up, dragged them outside.
Eldest lasted about a half an hour, til totality began, then stumbled back to bed, familial obligations fulfilled. Hux fared much better, well into the thing, but she too wandered back inside after an hour or so. And then it was down to me and youngest. We snuggled close to the stove, talked some, went to the telescope a couple times, but mostly just watched as the moon turned eerie red, then dull brown as the moon slid fully into shadow. It was a long, cold wait for light after that, but light, when it came, was dramatic. It was preceded by that same weird red glow, and then, not quite suddenly, the edge of the moon lit up, and light slowly spread across the surface as the red glow faded. Lovely, startling, moving.
After that even youngest gave up the ghost, went to bed. I tucked her in, poured myself several fingers of good bourbon, and went out to watch the end. Things were about half in shadow by then. I sipped my bourbon and smelled the woodsmoke and watched the moon slide into sunlight, surrounded by darkness, and thought about that tumble into darkness, that long cold time in shadow, and the slow but inevitable progress back into the light.