I thank our loveseat for helping me to see Friday morning’s almost total lunar eclipse. Yes, our basement loveseat in all its cramped, lumpy glory. If I hadn’t unexpectedly fallen asleep on it and woke up stiff and sore at 2:15 a.m., I’d have never risen to see the longest lasting lunar eclipse since the year 1441. This was the year the Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshinori and Flemish painter Johannes van Eyck died and the Peace of Cremona ended the war between the Republic of Venice and the Duchy of Milan. OK. I was hoping to find some more memorable events at the “this year in history” websites, but I hear that the 1441 eclipse was superb. But back to thanking my lumpy loveseat and appreciating my bed, which is just too comfortable to get me to wake up for a middle-of-the night eclipse. If we could just schedule lunar eclipses for the daytime…kidding.
So I bundled up for the high-20s night, grabbed my camera, and headed out to the backyard. The night was still. The remaining yellow and orange leaves occasionally fluttered from branches to crown big piles of leaves on the ground. I worried about cloudy skies, but I quite possibly encountered the clearest night sky I’ve ever seen in 20 years of living on Chicago’s North Side. There were at least 100 stars overhead (rural readers, please don’t laugh), and I was able to identify the constellations of Taurus, Orion, Perseus, and Ursa Major and Minor. And then I spotted the orange moon—looking like some sort of spooky viewing portal to the beyond in the black firmament. Native Americans named the November full moon the Beaver Moon because it was traditionally the time when these rodents were especially active before winter. This reminds me of humans with their endless leaf-blowing and raking (try to leave as many as possible on the ground because they’re good for the environment), garden clean ups, and efforts to winterize their homes and cars. The November full moon is also known as the Frost or Frosty Moon, or the Snow Moon.
I’ve seen many eclipses, but I was transfixed by this one—an eclipse in which 97 percent of the moon’s face was in Earth’s shadow at its peak. Maybe it was because the night was so clear and serene. Maybe it was because this eclipse fell between the dwindling days of colorful, leafy fall and the cold, ruthless days of Chicagoland winter. Maybe because it was my first eclipse from the yard of my first home.
I stood on the crunchy, half-frozen grass and gazed at the moon. The night was so quiet and it almost felt like this eclipse was mine alone to experience—although I’m sure there were crazy people just like me across the country who decided to give up a few hours of sleep to catch one of the great wonders in our night sky. I stood and watched the moon as it gradually changed to different shades of orange and more of its face was covered by Earth’s shadow. When I wanted a break from the moon, I gazed at the different constellations and checked out the streetscape. The bar across the street—with its spitters, cigarette-butt-tossers, and mid-afternoon staggerers—was long closed. No one had parked in front of our driveway (twice now since we moved in), had decided to replace their front brakes on our front lawn, or chosen to stop, sit, and make out on our grass. All the daytime city nonsense was gone, and it felt good.
My reverie was broken by the sound of a massive freight jet lumbering overhead on its way to O’Hare, but that was okay. I had photos to take. I used my iPhone and also set up my tripod and used my Nikon with a zoom lens to try to capture what I was seeing. I took way too many photos but am glad I stopped because none really matched what I saw. As I snapped photo after photo, I was reminded of the danger of looking through life via a camera lens rather than actually living it. I put down the camera and soaked in the night sky. Sometimes, there is no way to convey the joy of a solitary experience to others, and as I get older I realize that there’s something quite special about those solo experiences and memories.
I savored the eclipse for about 1.5 hours. But my frozen hands and ears told me it was time to head in. I had to be up in less than three hours. I headed inside but kept returning to the lawn for one last look at the eclipse that became three or four last looks. I finally went inside—leaving Luna for other moon lovers making their own memories a few yards or miles away.
Copyright (text/photos) Andrew Morkes
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ABOUT ANDREW MORKES
I have been a writer and editor for more than 25 years. I’m the founder of College & Career Press (2002); the editorial director of the CAM Report career newsletter and College Spotlight newsletter; the author and publisher of “The Morkes Report: College and Career Planning Trends” blog; and the author and publisher of Hot Health Care Careers: 30 Occupations With Fast Growth and Many New Job Openings; Nontraditional Careers for Women and Men: More Than 30 Great Jobs for Women and Men With Apprenticeships Through PhDs; They Teach That in College!?: A Resource Guide to More Than 100 Interesting College Majors, which was selected as one of the best books of the year by the library journal Voice of Youth Advocates; and other titles. They Teach That in College!? provides more information on environmental- and sustainability-related majors such as Ecotourism, Range Management, Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Sustainability Studies, and Sustainable Agriculture/Organic Farming. I’m also a member of the parent advisory board at my son’s school.
In addition to these publications, I’ve written more than 40 books about careers for other publishing and media companies including Infobase (such as the venerable Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance, the Vault Career Guide to Accounting, and many volumes in the Careers in Focus, Discovering Careers, What Can I Do Now?!, and Career Skills Library series) and Mason Crest (including those in the Careers in the Building Trades and Cool Careers in Science series).
My poetry has appeared in Cadence, Wisconsin Review, Poetry Motel, Strong Coffee, and Mid-America Review.