Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Musings: Dec 21, 2010

Our Moon at 9 PM

Tonight is the night of the winter solstice and a total lunar eclipse. It’s been 372 years since the events coincided. I’m hopeful but not optimistic that we’ll get to see it. Right now there is a patch of sky showing, but lots of rain predicted for tonight. Meanwhile I have over three hours to wait before it begins and shall content myself by remembering my first memorable eclipse of the moon.

In the early 70s we moved to Prineville Oregon. As best I remember about a year later we decided to camp on the western edge of Klamath Lake. The eastern edge of the lake is rather blah – sagebrush on shore and no marsh. We didn’t know what to expect on the western edge except we knew the Winema National Forest (now known as the Fremont-Winema National Forest) reached down to the water. We arrived late in the day. A little wayside called Crystal Springs looked good enough to camp at. It wasn’t quite on the lake, but through a grove of trees we could hear coots and grebes and an occasional sandhill crane calling. Crystal Springs is near Agency Lake, a smaller lake just north of Klamath Lake.

Well after sunset our family of four headed down a woodsy path towards the sounds. It would be dark soon, but the full moon was rising and we knew there would be plenty of light. After only about a quarter of a mile we came to an overlook. Hundreds of acres of marsh stretched off into the darkness. Moonlight sparkled on patches of water glimmering between masses of tall tule bulrushes and spatterings of lilypads. A wild assortment of sounds drifted up to us from the marsh …. the coot, grebes, and cranes along with various ducks, Canada geese and a great horned owl. Most unusual for us was the lovely night call of a poor will.

It was magical! The whole marsh was unsettled and talking. But fate was playing with us. The sky seemed clear, yet a dark cloud was slowly overtaking the moon – a very dark cloud. We began to worry about finding our path though the woods on our way back, so we headed back to camp before we totally lost our way. Only later we sheepishly realized we had been watching an eclipse of the moon.

The next day we found a camping spot right on the edge of the marsh. That night the nearly full moon rose a little later and sent its long rays of soft light into our camp. As darkness fell the marsh was ever so much quieter. It was as if the night before every bird on the marsh had celebrated the eclipse.

And now for today's moon:

10:00 PM

The moon has continued to mostly show all evening and now, a half an hour before start time, there is no sign of it. Heavy clouds have smothered it. I don’t even have a clue as to where it actually is. I’m skunked!

10:33 PM: Now is the time the eclipse is supposed to start on the West Coast.

10:40 PM: We can see it! Thin clouds pass over it, but the moon shines bright and the dark shadow is starting. Whoopee! Very still down here, damp, about 45 degrees. Above us the clouds race.

I’ve been sketching and painting and enjoying. I drug out the camera equipment and was delighted when Dale took over. The moon has been playing with the clouds ever since the eclipse started. At one point light drizzle was falling on us, yet we could see the moon. The clouds really thickened just as the last bit on sunlight was leaving the moon. Gone. It was a race to see if the light would leave the moon first or if the clouds would just cover the whole works. Instead of an orange red ball, we saw blackness.

12:08 AM Dec 21

Wouldn’t you know, I put the tripod and big lens away, and then the clouds thinned again. The ‘shadowed’ moon glows reds, burnt orange and warm browns up there, above us. Etheral. This solstice moon is a very moody moon. A night to remember.


  1. Dear Elva,
    Ooooohhhhh!! That's what I wanted to see. I enjoy your wonderful sketch(*wet in wet is so attractive and depicts clouds well) and the moody, but very clear moon in photos. Wow, beautiful. Your writing is, too, very fun to read. Thank you very much. It was a blessing that I could encounter you and your blog on net. Pleaes pass my best reagrds to your husband. Wish you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
    Best wishes, Sadami

  2. What a precious memory. I am glad you got to see it. Our area was cloud covered. Booo

  3. Stunning....the sketch, the story and the shots of the eclipse!

  4. I love your story of the past eclipse and the wonderful pictures, painted and photographed, of yesterday's event. The shadowed moon is beautiful!