Week 71: The moon and the sun
After midnight on 28 September, the perigee full moon shone so brightly I thought we’d left a light on outside. With the promise of a lunar eclipse and a ‘blood moon’, I decided to stay up and watch. Husband was in bed with a cold.
I made myself comfortable on a sun-lounger. The moon drenched the night in a milky glow. I’d read two pieces of advice about moon-watching on this night. The first was that no special precautions were needed. (Husband scoffed. ‘That’s like telling people they don’t need to wear sunglasses to go out at night!’ But I was privately reassured.) The second was to give your eyes a chance to adjust to the darkness. The second advice turned out to be useless. There was no darkness. The sky was the colour of a blue rock thrush – of which more later – with barely any stars visible. The house cast a sharply defined shadow over the back terrace. I tentatively lifted my binoculars to the huge and luminous moon, glad to know I wasn’t about to burn my retinas out.
For an hour, between 01.11 and 02.11, nothing perceptible happened. Just me and the moon. Not another human sound could be heard. Birds and dogs made their occasional calls against the background of a steady buzz of cricket wings. Invisible insects brushed lightly against my cheeks. The only noise to startle was the crackle of a dry leaf falling to the ground.
Then it was as though someone had touched the paper disc of the moon with a lighter. A dark smoulder appeared from top left. Ever so slowly it consumed the whole moon. It was the shadow of the earth, and since it felt like I was the only person on earth, then that was my shadow on the moon. Lunacy. The fore-edge of the shadow was dark, but gradually the light from the sun, refracted around the intervening planet earth and filtered through our atmosphere, streamed orangey red on to the surface of the moon. I kept on watching, moving the sun-bed for best alignment with the moon, which was becoming smaller and clearer and ever more distinctly red in the darkening, deepening sky as the time ticked by and the stars shone more abundantly. With the visible crater on the lower part of the moon looking like the remains of a stem, the moon was nothing other than a perfect, planetary blood orange. I fetched a blanket against the chill and stayed there, entranced, until at about 4.30 full-spectrum light reappeared at the side of the disc. The eclipse was ending. Time to go to bed.
The installation of the solar power is under way. The chosen patch of land has perfect aspect; however, it turned out to be insufficiently firm underfoot. Each of the nine panels needed to have concrete foundations. This required our builder – or, rather, his assistant, who changed each day, presumably worn out – to carry buckets of gravel and freshly mixed cement up through the garden, past the top bench, and then up a steep slope that is difficult enough simply to walk up. They managed to complete the job. I was filled with admiration.
I’m running out of self-allocated space this week. Also, no blog next week because I shall be in England, largely for work reasons. Just enough room to mention the blue rock thrush. One has taken up residence in our valley, on the other side from us. It is a nondescript bird from a distance, until the light catches it advantageously, when you can see that it is an exquisite shade of blue: the sort of blue you would see in a midnight sky that is awash in the milky glow of a supermoon …