Lights in the sky … they pass me by

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The moon did a beautiful thing last night. It bulged hugely over the horizon, as immense and awe-inspiring as the Great Pumpkin Himself, and then slid majestically into the earth’s shadow, where it lingered and glowed with an unearthly radiance…

Supermoon (source)

Supermoon (source)

… which is pretty much what you’d expect, given that the moon is off in space and not, in fact, on earth. But I digress. The point of this post is that while this was what I expected, it wasn’t what actually happened. By the time the moon rose over our part of the world it was already pretty well eclipsed. And anyway, I didn’t actually get to see the moon rise, despite having spent the past several days in a fizz of anticipation, because I had to go help someone who had just rescued puppies, and then when I was headed home it suddenly occurred to me that I had to go to Costco because we were out of dog food, and so I hurtled into our house five minutes before moonrise … to find Himself immersed in some or other entirely non-cosmic activity and not ready.

By the time the shouting was done and we were tearing up the road to and into the hills in search of a good viewpoint it was 10 minutes later, but there was still no sign of the bloody moon because the Pacific Northwest is still smoldering and there’s a thick band of smoke along the horizon. (Yes, of course I know the sufferings of the fire victims is way more important than my disappointment at missing an event that won’t happen again until 2033.)

Suddenly I saw a thin slice of moon poised over the river, and Himself pulled off the road and drove a short way through the sagebrush. We got out, and he set up his camera while the dogs moseyed about and I watched the silver sliver slip into darkness. In the cool evening air the fragrance of crushed sagebrush was … well, out of this world.

Then we came home, because we were hungry and also there were critters to feed. I was throwing hay over the fence at the steers when I turned my head and realized that we had a marvelous view of the sullenly glowing eclipse right there. I leaned on the corral fence and watched it for a while, and it was lovely, but I have to tell you I’m getting just a tad bit fed up with the way events of an astronomical nature never quite match up to my expectations, no matter how eagerly I wait, or how carefully I plan.

This isn’t the first moon experience I’ve managed to ditz up. The first time I even heard of the harvest moon was while my parents were visiting in 2008. (I’m sure harvest moons must happen in South Africa, but I never heard of them, growing up in Johannesburg. Was that because no one notices the moon in a big city? Or because the African moon is always spectacular?) For the 2008 harvest moon with my parents I fixed up a picnic supper and we took it down to the river, where we sat on the beach and waited for the moon to rise. And waited. And waited. And I kept telling them it would be worth the wait, because harvest moons are huge. And then up it came, somewhat south of where we were looking, a very pretty but otherwise quite ordinary full moon that had used up all its special effects while it was still behind a nearby hill.

This kind of thing has been happening as long as I remember. Take Halley’s Comet, for instance. I was 14 when my grandmother told me about how its tail swept across the earth in 1910. She described a spangled sky, and light so bright you could read by it if you were soulless enough to look down, and her eyes sparkled at the memory. Later my mother told me my grandmother was only two years old in 1910, but I didn’t care. That conversation was the beginning of a 14 year countdown until it was my turn to witness the glory first hand.

There was a tremendous amount of excitement in the lead-up to Halley’s arrival on February 9th, 1986 (just a few days before my birthday). Every supermarket had shelves full of comet-themed merchandise. My editor sent me on a balloon ride in the Magaliesberg, maybe hoping a close-up view of the comet would inspire Deathless Prose – or, at least, advertising.

The balloon ride was fun, and the champagne breakfast afterwards was even funner … but the comet? Let’s just say it’s good that I’d bought a mug, because the actual comet was a whole lot smaller than the one I had on my kitchen shelf.

I’ll be 102 years old when Halley comes by again. Perhaps Sam Clemens will let me hitch a ride … if I ever write anything more worthy than nonsensical blog posts.

Then there was the year I learned about the Perseid meteor shower in August. (We don’t see this in the southern hemisphere, so I’d never heard of it.) I invited a couple friends to go out for an evening picnic on our jetboat, and I promised “fireworks”. My friend Wonder Woman loves fireworks, so she was pretty excited. So there we were, floating in the middle of the Columbia River at about 10 o’clock at night, full of wine and assorted munchies. Wonder Woman – who is in her eighties – was starting to think about bedtime, and the friend she’d brought with her – who was jet lagged, having arrived from New Zealand just a few days previously – was dozing off, and Himself was muttering fretfully about having to find his way back to shore in the dark.

Wonder Woman turned to me and asked, “Well? When will the fireworks begin?”

“I don’t know!” I replied, scanning the skies with a feeling of impending social doom. “The newspaper said they’d be happening about now. And they’re supposed to be amazing!” I then explained that the promised fireworks, far from being made in China, were being sent direct from the heavenly realms.

“Oh, the Perseids!” she said … and that’s when I learned they came every year and that, when she was younger, she used to enjoy watching them quite often. So we sat and the boat rocked and about 15 meteors zipped across the sky(although not once across the piece of sky I happened to be watching at the time) and then Himself started up the boat and took us home.

I tried again last August while the Girl Child was visiting. We drove up into the hills and found a stretch of dirt road that ran through a cutting that blocked off all light from the town, and we plonked down a blanket and a couple of pillows and lay down on the side of the road. Immediately the breeze that had been bebopping about, playing with our hair, picked up its skirts and blew. So of course I got sand behind my contact lenses, where it commenced grinding my eyeballs. I just got up and got into the car and took the bloody lenses out and put them in my mouth to keep safe, and then I lay back down next to the Girl Child. Every now and then I saw a blurred streak, but in the half hour or so that we lay there until we could no longer ignore the wind, she saw 50. Or maybe it was 100. I forget. What I remember is being there with her in the blustery dark, with rocks pressing up through the blanket and into my spine, mumbling when I spoke because I was scared the wind would blow my contact lenses off my tongue.

It was beautiful.

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About Belladonna Took

Into my second half-century and still trying to figure out what to be when I grow up. Born South African, naturalized American, at constant risk of losing my balance and landing ass-first in the Atlantic. A wife, a mom, a daughter and sister, kind of a grandma. Until recently a full-time dog rescuer, now more concerned with rescuing myself. User of dog hair as accessory, decor and garnish. Technical writer, strategic thinker, occasional entrepreneur. Voiceless poet and storyteller. Born again Christ-follower and former missionary schoolteacher chewing on some uncomfortable questions. Ignorer of rules, challenger of assumptions, believer in miracles. Skeptical libertarian, equal opportunity despiser of politicians and assholes. Gonnabe gardener, wannabe beekeeper, Monsanto-hating tree-hugger. Morbidly obese chocaholic, with a horse I don't ride because I might break him, and if not he would probably break me.

26 responses »

  1. The eclipse only started after midnight over here, and as yesterday was a work day I couldn’t very well stay up all night to watch it. I suppose I could have woken up at 5am to see the blood moon before it set. I don’t have a good excuse for why I didn’t. The full moon was beautiful when it rose, though. With our large east-facing windows we always have a perfect view.

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    • Now that it’s past I wish I’d spent hours lying outside and just watching the moon. I look at photographs and think, “Dang, that was worth more than 15 minutes leaning against the corral fence!” But it was cold … and although the steers had been fed the dogs were still hungry … and then I got involved in writing this post … and the next time I went outside it was all over!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So enjoying the blog– and so appreciated our lovely chat! Am distressed to learn that Jim will have radiation treatments, though Himself seems not at all concerned. How are you holding up under all of it??

    Saw the doc today and got some anti depressant help– which I hope, will indeed help! Not in a terrible state, but have been having a fairly robust pity party,. I think I finally got through the “push” and am a bit at loose ends., Still have not much in the way of oomph and have determined to begin a gentle exercise routine, leading to more strenuous activity,. I am just so out of shape from laying about all these months. I hope t feel better at some point! Because of the embolism, the doc has told me to go off my hormone replacement, and I am suffering from hot flashes– I HATE IT!!!! REALLY, REALLY HATE IT!!! I guess it is better than croaking of an embolism— but it makes me wonder.

    When do you leave for CA?? That is coming right up, is it not? I sincerely hope you have the greatest of times!!

    Hugs to you!!

    Kappie

    From, Kappie

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    • Hey, dear friend! How great to see you on here! We’re off to Reno and then Vallejo next week, and I’m sure at least one post will come out of that.

      Meds are good, but I’ve told you – for some serious medicine come on over here and let us pamper you rotten. I spent most of last year fighting my way through burnout, so I know what you need – lots of sleep, lots of leaving you in peace, leisurely conversation whenever you want it, and a freezer full of ice cream. It’s all here for you – just come and get it!

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  3. I feel your pain. We had severe overcast so no moon at all. I did get a great picture of a big dark cloud, but you can’t see it either. Do you think I should blow it up and frame it?

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  4. We woke up at 3:30am on Monday morning and watched the entire eclipse from my back yard. The moon was ENORMOUS and what amazed me most was that when it was fully eclipsed, it became an actual globe, instead of the usual glaring disc. We didn’t watch it uneclipse again, but the first part was enough.

    And it was about 40-50 meteors on my back in the dirt listening to your mumbling 🙂

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    • I should have done something like that. I wouldn’t even have had to wake up at 3AM! Too much adrenaline pumping, I guess! I wanted to be ready, but with various distractions I wasn’t, and then I was in a flap, and then there were more distractions … and for some reason it seemed to make more sense to sit down and write about it than to wrap up warm, go outside, and spend an hour or more leaning on the corral fence and just looking.

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  5. I got some good shots, and some not-so-good shots of the blood moon. Good, because I know my camera and what it’s capable of, not-so-good because I have yet to invest in the ultra-delux-super-de-duper zoom lens capable of making you think you’re actually ON the surface of the moon.

    And, naturally, I’ve the story behind the night-time trek. I just gotta find time to compose it on our electronic media.

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  6. Having watched a couple of partial eclipses and also having enjoyed a bit of the super moon before Sunday, and more importantly, after a weekend of preparing and then selling my fare at the local food & wine show, on Saturday, my body made its presence felt on Sunday. And I’d been awake, not on purpose) at 04h00 or thereabouts on Friday and Saturday, so the thought of actually planning to be awake at that hour was more than I could contemplate. That said, midnight visits to the loo had me peering out of our northerly facing bedroom window to see the glorious moon, and then through the west-facing fanlight to see the start of the eclipse. The next I knew, the alarm was going off and the sky was full of clouds. So I didn’t miss much.

    As for Halley’s comet: I went, with then-boyfriend to some plot somewhere in Bapsfontein, theoretically to get away from the light pollution of Johannesburg, but actually to have a bit of a party. Much beer, wine and braaied meat were consumed. Not much comet watched. Anyhow, the whole thing was very disappointing: like you, I’d heard stories of the sky lighting up with this amazing vision from older folk, to discover that it was better in my imagination than in real life. A bit like books and their movies… 🙂 Hmmm….

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    • I must admit, it was pretty special and I’m glad I didn’t totally miss it. But one of these days I’m going to plan properly for one of these heavenly events, and the weather is going to cooperate, and there will be no crises, and I will be facing in the right direction. One day.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. As someone who has spent my entire life calling out “what? huh? where?? I don’t see it!” every time anyone attempts to point out to me a significant sight or occurrence, I LOL’ed throughout this post. 🙂

    Glad I’m not the only one who tends to miss the unearthly, “not to be missed!” events transpiring overhead…

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