Lunacy and sanity

It’s less than 24 hours, so this still counts as a timely post.

I guess I had been primed because I had been thinking about it. But although I hadn’t set my alarm I found myself awake at 02:52 on Monday morning – I can still see the digital display – and so I got up, checked out the window that the moon was visible (it was – and already mostly eclipsed), dressed and hurried downstairs, grabbing my camera and binoculars on the way.

To my disappointment I realised after a quick search that my camera tripod has been left at the office and resigned myself to hand-held, or at least fence-supported, photography.

No matter. The point as to enjoy the moment. We drove to France to catch the solar eclipse in 1999, and I rose at dawn on a sunny day in June 2012 to witness the last transit of Venus of my lifetime. Having woken, I was determined to experience the eclipse of the supermoon.

What is it about these instances of celestial mechanics that are so appealing? I think it may be that they lay bare the machinery of the cosmos. They establish a connection that is understood, known – but otherwise invisible. They are special moments of conjunction – not in the astrologers’ fantastical nonsense – but in the sense that reality is (as we too often forget) astonishing and fantastic.

And so, last night, I watched the curve of the Earth slide across the face of the moon. I participated in the geometry of our place in the solar system, an experience made more real, but also more surreal, by the red, angry aspect the moon took on as it descended into full eclipse. For all the world, it might last night have been made of molten iron. In a magical and scientific moment the familiar was made unfamiliar.

But still and all it made perfect sense. The blood moon is no more than the product Newton’s cosmic clockwork, whatever Einstein might protest. As I am a cog in the wheel of my life, the machinations of which I discern less clearly than I might wish. But if every now and then I can apprehend the unfathomable mystery of the heavens by observing it’s predictable machinations, then perhaps there is also something to hold on to, for the sake of my own sanity.

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