Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Total Eclipse of the Moon

Mavis, Anne, Jack, Dale Rood, Isey, Thanksgiving, circa 80s
When I went outside very early this morning to watch the lunar eclipse, I realized I was in for a mystical treat. A golden moon brightened hazy sky, back dropped by luminous Christmas lights decorating neighbors’ houses. My big tomcat Goldie joined me as I watched the unfolding event.

I had no telescope and only gazed up at the lunar phenomenon with my naked eyes. The realization that I was witnessing a total lunar eclipse the same day as the Winter Solstice, two events that occur on the same day only once every four hundred years, or so, caused me to recall another story recounted many years ago by my Grandmother Dale O’Rear Rood. Grandmother Dale was born October 27, 1891. She was nineteen when she witnessed Halley’s Comet in 1910.

“Halley’s is the only naked-eye comet that a human can witness twice in a lifetime. Mark Twain saw it twice and so did Papa Pink. I’m going to live until it passes one more time.”

Grandmother Dale didn’t quite make it, dying February 27, 1985 at the age of 93, less than a year from the date (February 9, 1986) Halley’s Comet last passed close enough to Earth to be seen with the naked eye. She actually came closer than Papa Pink; despite his boasts to the contrary, John Pickney O’Rear was born September 9, 1837, almost two years after the comet’s passing November 16, 1835.

I thought about Grandma Rood’s story as I watched the moon disappear into darkness, and then reappear the color of burnished bronze. Goldie didn’t seem to care, but shared my moment like a spiritual being that somehow understood the importance of the celestial event.

Marilyn usually leaves the radio in our living room on all the time. I’m not a religious person, but I couldn’t help but reflect on the Christmas song, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, playing as I opened the front door and cast one last glance at the sky. It caused me to reflect on my own existence. I won’t be around in 2061 when Halley’s Comet appears again, much less in four hundred years.

Giving Goldie, my big tom a last scratch behind the ears, I grinned, deciding not to ponder the thought further as I plodded off to bed.

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