Moon Mission

By , December 12, 2011

Looking out at Lynn Canal Friday night, we assumed we would not be able to see the lunar eclipse early the next morning. We were socked in, cloudy to the water line, with lashing rain. We talked to Aly on the phone, and learned that she and friends planned to stay up all night to catch the eclipse. We wished her well, and wished we could see it, too.

About 5:00 Saturday morning, I woke up and lay for a while in the dark, wondering if the weather remained poor for sky viewing. Finally, deciding I needed to relieve myself anyway, I hauled out of bed and went outside.

I walked out under a canopy of stars. Light frost coated the rocks in the yard and on the beach. I realized that at that moment, the lunar eclipse had entered totality.

I rushed back inside and woke Michelle. We dressed quickly, threw a few things into a knapsack, and headed up the trail.

blow down

There's no way I was going to get a good shot of the moon, so here's the early morning sun in the blow down, a few hours after our eclipse viewing (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

In planning to see the eclipse, I’d intended to take Michelle to an overlook up the “Moose Highway,” the top of a rocky bluff that offered a commanding view of Mud Bay and the Chilkat Mountains. As we hurried up the trail, I saw a flaw in my plan. Even though most of the snow had melted from our trail, there would still be snow on higher ground. Rushing up there in the dark in time to witness the eclipse seemed risky. Instead, we went to a smaller cliff right on our property line. It overlooked the area we call “the blow down,” and would likely provide a good view of the moon. We climbed to that spot, and found a faint smudge of light hanging in the sky above us, perfectly framed by tall trees.

We had arrived in time to see the last tiny edge of light disappear from the moon’s face. Light clouds scudding across it obscured the eclipsed face for a bit, then it slowly began to reappear. We stood and watched, sometimes with the binoculars we brought, but mostly with our naked eyes.

We enjoyed the thought that we were gazing at the moon here at home at the same time Aly and her friends did the same from a vantage point near her college. There’s a country song I rather like by Julianne Hough called Dreaming Under the Same Moon, and I thought of that as we watched. Later, we learned that their viewing clouded over after a few seconds. Ah well.

That was about all I could do, musically. I’d pulled out the iPod and portable speakers I’d brought along, to play Christmas music while we watched, but the battery ran out when I turned it on. Instead, we listened to the soughing of the wind in the trees, and the tiny sounds of animals around us. We talked a bit, but mostly watched in companionable silence.

About the time the returning moon reached the crescent stage, we’d grown cold standing still. It was time to hike home for a hot breakfast and coffee and tea in front of the fire.

I’m pretty proud of us for getting out so early in the morning. Even with our lifestyle, it’s easy to grow complacent, especially in the winter. We could easily have stayed in bed, vaguely wishing later that we’d taken the effort to get out to watch the eclipse. It was well worth the effort.

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