Monday, September 28, 2015

Vision Of The Blood Moon

At last! I finally, finally got to see an eclipse! I am euphoric! What. A. Spectacle. My neck hurts from staring up at the sky for hours and I’ve barely slept, but it’s a vision that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Or at least till my brain holds up.

I’ve always been unlucky when it came to watching an eclipse. The weather is most often the spoil sport. Or I’d be plonked in a place where we simply can’t view it. Everyone talks about the total solar eclipse of the 80s. India fell right in the path, and people remember the day going dark for a few minutes. I don’t remember any of it. Mostly because all our homes were blacked out by thick blankets and curtains...and we were all cooped inside.  

The second total solar eclipse that I remember was marred by cloud cover. I was in college I think, and there was a direct relay of the eclipse on Doordarshan. We missed to see the diamond ring because the camera man panned to show the people gathered to watch the eclipse, and then they cut the shot to the studio.

Total solar eclipse conditions - March 2015.
My most recent experience of a total solar eclipse was here in the UK. I waited with bated breath – the eclipse was taking place in the morning, expected to peak at 8:30am or 9. But once again, the cloud cover was dense. Even so...I was absolutely thrilled as the sky darkened to near-twilight conditions. Pigeons flew in circles and roosted in their usual place. Geese that had set out in the morning returned. It was simply awesome!

So, given my lack of luck when it came to catching an eclipse, I was not very excited about yesterday’s total lunar eclipse. I was sure there’d be cloud cover, or, given the time of the eclipse, the moon would’ve ridden over the horizon and hidden behind the trees that line my apartment. All that stuff about the ‘Blood Moon’...I thought it was just a terminology. I was in for a surprise.

Yesterday’s full moon was also a supermoon – this is when the moon is at a point on its orbit that’s closest to the earth. So it looks bigger and brighter. I went to bed around midnight, but woke up an hour later just to take a chance. I was delighted to see a low-hanging moon, my home looking as if it’s lit up by a stadium floodlight. There was not a cloud in the sky. The green of the lush communal garden that’s visible from my home had taken on that strange silvery-gray tint in the moonlight. It reminded me of the scene in Dracula when Mina Harker goes searching for Lucy J

It was still half-past one. This was the only website  that informed me accurately that the eclipse would start around 2:07am local time, peak at 3:47am and end a little after 5am. I stared at the moon for some time and dozed off. I woke up around 2:20am and looked out of my window. Yes! I could see the earth’s shadow had crept up – a quarter of the moon was covered. I was beside myself with excitement. I mean after all my previous bad luck, I was now able to see an eclipse sitting on my bed! But would I be able to see the full eclipse? I quickly calculated from my previous moon-gazing experience - the moon’s position was in the middle of my second window. It would take an hour for it to move to the third. By which time it would be high-up on the horizon. (Does that also give you an idea about my insomnia?) Going by the timings mentioned on the internet, I surmised I should be able to view the total eclipse. I’d only miss the release part – the moon would be setting behind the trees.

By the time 3/4th of the moon was covered, it had moved to the third window. The earth’s shadow, superimposed on the bright moon, gave off an orangey tinge. The thin slice of exposed crescent was blinding. The moon now looked like a single eye, partially shut. The orangish colour did make it look a fleshy eyelid.
Even as I watched, the earth’s shadow closed in. The moon was now completely covered – a tawny blob hanging in the sky. It now looked like a diseased red eye, the craters forming a dilated pupil, staring down on a sleeping town. No wonder our ancestors freaked out. One minute you have a bright, beautiful moon...and then, suddenly it looks like a bloody disc. Is it any surprise that the Blood Moon inspires so many tales of vampires and werewolves?

You can see photos of the eclipse on this Guardian website.

The moon was out of my line-of-sight now. I wished, wished, wished I was in an open field. It would have been spectacular to view it from Stonehenge, for example. I caught the setting eclipse from the kitchen for a few minutes, and finally went to bed.

I did think of the times when we are eclipsed by someone else...usually the negativity propagators. It’s not that you allow them, but it just happens— they creep up on you, just like the earth’s shadow on the moon. You’d think you are so aligned with them, just like the moon and the earth before an eclipse. But they steal your radiance, your inner beauty, making you appear bloody and diseased. As this celestial spectacle demonstrates, the only way to claim your life back is it to move out of their shadow.

Remember, the brilliance after an eclipse is even more spectacular.

© Sumana Khan - 2015

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