I have a friend – retired – who, when she knows a major astronomical event is going to happen (whether lunar eclipse, Aurora Borealis, or a simple meteor shower), will set her alarm for 2 AM. She gets up, wraps in a blanket, and goes outside to watch the phenomena from her lawn chair on the beach. That seems, to me, like the best sort of involvement in the world: to be aware, appreciative, and present for the event.
Personally, I don’t have the stamina. I could, for instance, know that it would be a good time for viewing the northern lights. I might have marked it on the calendar, and checked the forecast to see if the sky would be clear. I might even go so far as to set the alarm. When it goes off, though, at two o’clock in the morning, I will just turn it off and go back to sleep. If I am up out of bed to let the dogs out, I may venture on to the porch to have a look…if the weather is mild. If I happen – out of sheer luck – to catch a glimpse of something special, I’ll simply give it a nod of appreciation before going back inside.
It’s not that I don’t care. My daughter and I once spent four hours on Donegal Bay, waiting to view a lunar eclipse. On my fortieth birthday, on my way home after a long day, I happened to notice the sky: it was filled with ribbons of green and pink, the northern lights at their best. I went and got my sisters up, and we wandered the town, looking up at the night sky. Another time my friend Bob and I spent a couple hours lying on our backs in the sand, in the middle of the night at Iron Ore Bay, watching falling stars. I take note of the moon and stars, most anytime the opportunity arises. I’m just not very good at dragging out of bed for any of it.
Tonight, though, was the best night for viewing the super moon, and I was ready. It looks largest, they say, early in the evening when it is just rising, and closest to the horizon. It’s an optical illusion that makes it appear so big, when it is close to the earth. Because it’s Sunday, my work day was short, and I was home long before the moon was rising, even with the days so short.
I worked on clearing windfall from the yard, and took the dogs for a long walk. As we were coming back toward the house, there was the moon, visible through the trees. Just as predicted, it looked huge. I snapped a picture…then another. To my naked eye, it was an amazingly large moon; on the camera, it looked just average-size. I toggled back and forth for a bit, from the view through the camera (where the moon looked just normal) to the normal view (where the moon looked extraordinary). Then I decided, on this rarest of occasions when I am present for a special occurrence, that I would quit trying to analyze it, and simply relax and enjoy the view.