There’s a red smudge in the sky to the east.
The Earth’s shadow is falling across the surface of the Moon.
Giant bodies are rolling around each other at stunning distances and speeds.
Together, as they dance, they do this occasional trick with the light, where the one becomes lost almost completely in the shadow of the other.
Almost lost, but not quite.
Because the thin sheen of atmosphere which clings to our globe bends the light, curving it around the edges of the globe and refracting it toward our distant dance partner.
We bend the light around us and the red tinge of a million sunsets and a million sunrises paint our normally pale sister with a ruby hue.
It is a beautiful thing to behold. I’ve seen it before.
But not tonight, not yet.
The clouds have been rolling across the sky all evening, and the rising moon is little more than a red smudge, nearly lost in the haze. The atmosphere is the thing that makes the miracle, and often enough, obscures it from our vision.
I have many friends and acquaintances who are devout followers of this or that monotheist denomination. When, on occasion, I have wondered aloud about why, in the face of scientific fact, they cling to literalist interpretations of biblical canon, I have been told that their strength lies in their faith. If any one part of the Bible is found to be false, they explain, then the whole of it is forfeit, and their faith is for nothing.
This, it seems to me, demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the meaning behind the word. Any faith that cannot survive in the light of truth is a hollow imitation of belief.
The clouds have cleared a bit and the Moon is hanging higher in the sky, a dusky red lantern in the darkness.
I’ve brought my telescope out for the occasion, and it’s finally clear enough that I can put it to use. The blood-moon of the naked eye is, upon closer inspection, a gradient of hues from orange to deepest maroon.
My cat, weaving her way around the legs of the tripod, sees none of these colors. For her, the bright white ball has become a dim grey ball.
Do my eyes see the truth of it? Do hers?
Or does the scientific instrument see things more clearly?
And why would we assume that it must be one or the other?
Especially when there are still so many clouds!
For most of the people alive on this globe right now, the gods which I believe in are mere fables, or metaphors, or at best they are Jungian Archetypes which exist as manifestations of the human psyche.
When you spend years of your life, as I have, studying the gods and the mythologies that surround them, you quickly come to accept the fact that most of the scholarship on the topic was written with these biases as their foundation.
It is an unavoidable and perfectly reasonable attitude.
It doesn’t bother me. It inspires me!
And why shouldn’t it?
These, simple metaphors (if you will), have shaped human art and literature and science for the entire known history of our species. For almost two-thousand years, they have continued to guide and influence our culture, despite militant, often violent, suppression by the various monotheist orthodoxies that have held power.
If the gods are fictional then that’s pretty damned impressive for a bunch of stories!
Now stop and imagine, for just a moment, that you felt the touch of something that huge and powerful, in your life. If you count yourself as a believer, would you really need to cling to this idea that every scrap of mythology associated with your deity was true, despite all evidence to the contrary?
The clouds are gone. And so is the eclipse.
I just watched through the big lens as the last of the Earths’ hazy shadow slipped off the rim of the lunar sphere.
Earlier tonight I was using the 20mm lens on my scope, which puts the entire globe on display, but for these final moments I switched over to the 10mm which draws the moon down with stunning detail – craters, mountains, valleys, and the shadows they cast.
The red color is all leeched away by now, of course, and dear Luna is clothed once again in her standard pearlescent garb.
Watching through the scope, I see the last sliver of our shadow…,
It is a strange thing to sit there and see the final moments of something that huge, watching it not on television or on some live feed from the internet, but through your own eyes aided only by a couple pieces of glass. The stark truth of the thing does nothing to diminish the feeling of awe which is inspired by the immensity of the event.
I have been challenged, on more than one occasion, to produce some proof that my gods exist.
I can’t even prove that there was an eclipse tonight.
I saw bits and pieces of it.
I’ll wager you did too.
But there were an awful lot of clouds rolling through and most of it I couldn’t see that clearly.
The atmosphere, as I may have mentioned earlier, is the thing that makes the miracle, and often enough, obscures it from our vision.