Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

We drove to a small hill near Twin Peaks to see the lunar eclipse tonight around 7 p.m. The next lunar eclipse will be in December 2010, and Paul joked that at least one of us would be doctors by then. Stepping out of the car, the eclipse had already happened and all we could see was a tiny round wisp of cloud that we presumed was the lunar eclipse...but perhaps it was an artifact. In the dark, we climbed a hill and found a group of strangers staring into a navy blue sky without a moon in sight, the city of San Francisco lying underneath our feet lit up like a giant circuit board and the "sun" and "moon" visible on either side of the bay.
A lunar eclipse, by definition, is the partial disappearance of something. And when the moon is totally eclipsed, we found that there is actually not that much to see. So we waited for about 30 minutes for the moon to reappear, standing on the hill in the darkness. Jon asked how far away the earth was from the sun, what the tilt of the earth's axis was, and how many miles it would be to the center of the earth. Paul and Jon made a few speculations to kill the time, and Collin teased us with a riddle about wrapping a string tightly around earth and asking us how far we could pull the string from the ground if the string were lengthened by 1 inch.
I tried to remember some poetry to recite or talk about, but my thoughts were as wispy as the clouds (cirrus? asked Jon). All I could remember was Romeo's "it is the East, and Juliet is the sun," and a poem by Langston Huges about the sharp crook of the moon, "Dover Beach," and most of all, a poem called "Sad Steps" by Phil Larkin...which itself was a reference to Sidney's "Astrophil and Stella." But maybe "Sad Steps" was more appropriate than I realized, since it is after all a poem about the passage of time, reverence tinged with irreverence, and most of all an awareness that we shall all grow old together with other strangers in the darkness.
Sad Steps
Groping back to bed after a piss
I part thick curtains, and am startled by
The rapid clouds, the moon's cleanliness.
Four o'clock: wedge-shadowed gardens lie
Under a cavernous, a wind-picked sky.
There's something laughable about this,
The way the moon dashes through clouds that blow
Loosely as cannon-smoke to stand apart
(Stone-coloured light sharpening the roofs below)
High and preposterous and separate -
Lozenge of love! Medallion of art!
O wolves of memory! Immensements! No,
One shivers slightly, looking up there.
The hardness and the brightness and the plain
Far-reaching singleness of that wide stare
Is a reminder of the strength and pain
Of being young; that it can't come again,
But is for others undiminished somewhere.
- Philip Larkin
Around 7:50 p.m., the eclipse ended and the moon returned faintly, shining on its rounded edge like a pure white crescent wrapped in clouds and city light.

1 comment:

Jacqueline said...

Ah! I too watched the eclipse, but neither I nor my friend who watched it with me will be doctors by the next one :).

Hope you enjoyed it - that's a gorgeous photo! :)