Everyone was calling it an eclipse, and this otherwise ordinary Monday turned into a holiday, where all we were expected to do was be present and enjoy looking at the drama in the morning sky above us.
Monday — this Middle English word literally means Day of the Moon. So it was indeed Moon’s Day, a perfect day for an eclipse.
Through the morning clouds, thinning in the strong summer light, the sun and the moon moved closer, and kissed. They danced to some heavenly song unknown to we Earthlings, and held each other closer. Unseen forces were at play, and the primitive, uncivilized within me grew afraid. The sun was being eaten alive.
I’m sure my ancestors thought that heavenly sorcery was afoot, when they stared up at the sky on rare, unpredicted long ago days and watched the gods making love, or eating one another, while the Earth grew oddly cold and dark in the middle of the day, eclipsing.
There’s that funny word: Eclipse. In ancient Greek, the word means abandonment. I’m sure the birds in my yard felt abandoned, as they took to the trees at what seemed the untimely end of the day. I felt abandoned, too, maybe even getting a sense of the Apocalypse.
Astronomers and the more technical among us would call it an occultation and a syzygy.
Syzygy – a word even more fun to say than occultation. It means the alignment of three heavenly bodies.
Eclipse. Syzygy. Neither one fit well into a poem, not even a haiku, or an iambic pentameter rhyme.
And, eclipse, what rhymes with that? Like its ancient meaning, I soon abandoned the thought of writing a poem with the word on this Day of the Moon, the day the moon ate the sun for brunch.
I looked on, as the clouds thinned, the August sky its traditional blue, the ground warming in a summer’s day. Soon, the dance dimmed the morning light, until it was nearly dark, and an evening chill came up on us. Birds quieted and found their nightfall perch, and the summer breeze died to an almost deathly silence. My watch spoke its usual sun time speak, but then, not following the rules of this Moon Day occultation, this Syzygenarian time.
Everything was out of order. The usual reliability of the sun’s methodical walk across the summer sky, a thing I scarcely pay attention to, was seriously out of whack.
Indeed, I was truly eclipsed — abandoned.
Others in my tribe wanted to gather, to come to this heavenly party with lawn chairs and cold beers, and noisy laughter. I, instead, craved the solitude, the eerie silence, as I peered into the sky, watching this periodic, yet rarely experienced, silent meeting.
This time and place, was only reserved for Earthlings, on our little planet, third rock from the sun. We were being eclipsed, finding ourselves in heavenly occultation.
It was Syzygy day, an alignment, yet also we were abandoned. World order, even the order of the solar system, was crumbling before my very eyes.
High above, the lovers embraced, the moon hiding nearly all of the sun’s light from us, as a false night grew darker. Only the summer’s blue midday sky above, and the sliver of sun told us this was not night, but a rare heavenly embrace. Or was it murder?
Light reflected in a bucket of water turned into diamonds, and I snapped a photo. Later on, I looked at the photo, noticing the diamonds on the water were really a cluster of tiny black and white crescents, images of the heavenly dance above.
More sorcery, more midmorning magic, this Moon’s Day. Like the neighbor’s dogs, I wanted to bark and howl, hoping that would bring back the sun.
On it went, until the moon moved away, inch by celestial inch, until once again, the two orbs moved further apart, teaching us the celestial geometry of spheres, the amazement of heavenly bodies in motion, perspective, and proportion, our dependence on the sun’s seemingly eternal warmth and light.
Birds flew, and the ground warmed, summer’s light again appearing, as if this was just a usual day.
Humility, insignificance, timelessness, the lessons for this day, the sense of wonderment of things and doings not human. The universe teaching me again, how it can dance.
–Neal Lemery 8/26/17