Eclipse of the moon

This morning, just before sunrise, there was a total eclipse of the moon.

We were woken at 4.50am. I went into the bathroom and the moon was shining bright in a refracted hexagon through the frosted glass. I opened the louvres, and saw a disc of darkness moving across its face.

We went outside and stood on the grass. The big gum tree diagonally behind our back fence loomed against the sky. All around the sky hazed upwards from light into darkness. The circle of the Earth moved slowly across the moon, leaving a shadow of dark gold against the sky.

The section of the moon that was not yet shadowed grew brighter, and brighter still the smaller it became. First it was a crescent, then the crescent grew so small and bright that its edges blurred, until it became an oval. The cold reached straight through my coat to my skin. We stood there in silence on the wet grass, until finally, the unshadowed part of the moon was a sliver of light and colour. Then it too was gone, and the moon was round and whole again, dark and darkly red against the sky.

An early tram rattled past the junction, and we wondered if the tram driver could see the moon grown red with the ash of Chile’s volcano, passing through the sky above Melbourne. A plane flashed its lights low on the horizon. We shivered, waiting. At this point it was as though the moon had a stain encroaching into it from above – the shadow of the Earth, still moving across the moon’s face, the Earth still not quite dead centre between sun and moon. Earlier, the shadow was a clear, circular disc, sliding its way gently across the moon’s glow; now it was the progress of darkness spreading inwardly through the red circle of the moon.

The moon was much lower now; forty minutes had passed since we woke up, and it was moving into the rim of the sky that glowed with the lights of the city. So as the shadow spread deeper and deeper into the moon it became harder and harder to see it. Directly above the sky was much darker. A shooting star sliced across the space between the rooftop to my right and the trees to my left, ever so briefly dividing the sky. The moon was not quite red anymore; it paled. We watched until it disappeared against the glow of the sky, and then we went inside.

A little while later I came out again, to see if I could see the moon once more as it emerged from ‘totality’. When I opened the door onto the night it was not the cold I noticed but the noise of traffic; it swept into the house from far away. I looked into the space between the trees where the moon had been heading all night, and I thought I saw it, a gentle circle of cream or pink or white against the yellowish glow of the city. I thought I saw it, but if I looked directly at it, it vanished into the sky.

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