My friend Frank and I are driving through a snowstorm on the way to Bare Hill in hope of seeing the total eclipse of the moon. The radio warns us there is a travel advisory, and all unnecessary travel is discouraged. We laugh a bit foolishly at this advice coming over the airwaves.
out on this eclipse night
Bare Hill, a place revered by the Seneca Indians, rises from the shore of Canandaigua Lake into a large broad hill that overlooks the lake and the surrounding country. The sacredness of the hill, the chance that the storm front will move through, along with more than our fair share of dumb luck are what Frank and I are counting on in our quest to see the eclipse.
driving by faith . . .
from the farmer’s windblown field
Because of the storm we are running late and are ten minutes from Bare Hill at the time the eclipse is beginning, but it is still snowing so we don’t feel as if we are missing anything. We notice that the snow is no longer falling heavily and we take this as an omen that it might clear altogether later that night and some of the eclipse will be visible to us. Suddenly Frank who is driving points at the windshield. “Look.”
A glowing orb
mysterious behind clouds
missing a sliver
Both of us are stunned to see the eclipse through the now gently falling snow. After an hour and a half of tense driving we slap each other five and exult in our good fortune. A few minutes later we are driving up the side road that leads to the Bare Hill parking area, pleased that it is plowed all the way to the top, something that does not happen every winter. We jump out of the car into bitter cold. Clouds rush past, covering then uncovering, stringing whispy trails swiftly across the eclipsing moon.
the wild wind
carries our howls
to the moon
Even though it is cold (checking a wind-chill chart the next day I estimate that it felt like thirty below) we are exuberant. Frank has taken a drum from his car and is beating a primal rhythm. Wearing a parka and hiking boots I am dancing in the snow-reflected moonlight that waxes and wanes according to the wind-driven clouds.
Then it happens the last bit of silver crescent is gone and magically moments later the sky clears completely. Orion the Hunter and hundreds of other stars shine brightly in the clear winter sky. The moon glows dimly orange like a pumpkin, or rather like a lit but uncarved jack-o-lantern.
In the car there is a thermos of hot ginger tea and a bottle of scotch. We pour ourselves a cup of tea and pass the bottle back and forth several times. Then we walk a couple hundred yards to the edge of the nature preserve where a mutual friend has a tiny cabin.
the wood so cold
in the cast iron stove
before it’s lit
Forty minutes later we are barely getting warm when we leave the shelter of the cabin for the blustery wildness of Bare Hill and the rebirth of the moon. That is not how we think of it as we walk out into the c9old, but it is how we will think of it in a few minutes, and any time after that. We stand in the biting wind gazing at the orange ball in the sky. The lower left edge is getting lighter. It even seems to bulge a little.
of itself, a silver
speck of moon
Frank and I are both awed by the sight. It is wondrous in an indecipherable way. All the science of converging orbits and celestial shadows is lost in the moment. There is just this outpouring of joy at the reappearance of some of the moon in its bright form.
starts to creep across
the orange disk
It is powerfully cold and we start walking to keep warm. We finally stop when we come to a stand of pines that offers shelter from the wind. We find a spot where the pines are spaced a bit farther apart and through a gap in the branches view the moon as it slowly becomes full once more. Then we hurry back to the cabin cold, but feeling as if we have been blessed by being able to witness this extraordinary event. We feel fulfilled in ways we don’t understand, nor do we try to, happy just to somehow have been part of this cosmic occasion.
warming my feet
by the stove, glancing
again out the window