My alarm woke me up early this morning. It was 4:00 am and I was ready to see the peak of the lunar eclipse. I stumbled out of bed, a little blurry-eyed. It was dark and cold in my room, but my fleece pajama pants kept me warm. I went downstairs, put on my boots and wondered to myself “Will it be too cloudy? Did I miss it? Is anyone else awake?” One thing was abundantly clear to me: I was definitely staying in my pajamas.
I threw my coat around me and grabbed my phone. I wasn’t sure I would get a good picture, but thought it couldn’t hurt to take it.
As I walked outside, I first noticed the stars in the sky. They twinkled and were a clue for me that indeed, it was probably not too cloudy. But where in the world was the moon? What a ridiculous question to even ask myself!
I remembered where it was the last time I saw it in the sky of my suburban world. I looked for it there. It wasn’t there. That’s interesting. I did a 360 and then…I saw it.
It was incredible.
I could see the shadow that was being cast upon the moon. It was reddish/pinkish in color, at least to my human eye. When I went to take a picture, my camera automatically began suggesting I use “night mode,” which kept the shutter open on my camera for longer than I could hold still. I began getting frustrated with my camera, attempting to try various modes: with a flash, without a flash, zooming-in, zooming-out, selfie with the moon, video with the moon. And then I stopped myself. I could be missing a once-in-a-lifetime experience because I was too busy trying to capture it on film. (Did I just date myself by saying that?)
I put my cell phone in my pocket and just began to take it all in.
Although this moon was hundreds of thousands of miles away, ironically, through it, I felt closer with the rest of humanity. In that moment, the cells of my soul were bound up with the spirits of everyone else who would be watching this historical moment. I thought about others in town, who might be awake and outside. I thought about people across the states. I thought about my children. I thought about those I love – those still with me in body and those who are with me only in spirit.
A car drove by very slowly as I stood on the sidewalk in front of my house. Are they slowing down because they are worried about me being up so early? Do they think I’m drunk? Did they want to share in this very special moment with me? Would I invite these strangers to join me on the sidewalk? Do they even know this is happening? The car kept on driving and soon turned at the next intersection.
For sure, I thought to myself, there must be a Hebrew blessing we recite for a lunar eclipse. Admittedly, these things happen so infrequently, that I had to look up whether there was a blessing for this moment. Much to my dismay, there was no prescribed blessing for this eclipse, just general prayers for the wondrous aspects of nature. Even those prayers didn’t seem to capture the magnificence I was feeling.
I began to think about leaving the moon and going back inside. Despite my being alone, if I left, I would also be leaving the community of thousands who were joining me in this moment – whether in their front yards or on the streets of a busy city. I had a moment of sadness, but I was cold, so I walked back inside.
I grabbed my phone again and went on social media. Was anyone else posting about this moment? Was anyone else awake? Surely, there must be others who joined me in that moment. The connections were too strong.
Indeed, there were others who were up. We exchanged some words. And I told myself that it was time to go back to bed.
But then, a force even more powerful than the moon’s gravitational pull drew me back outside. I yearned for one more look. I wanted to just take it in again. I wanted to continue feeling the miraculous connection with others around the world. I wanted time to just stop for that one moment.
As I looked at the moon again, I began thinking about the next time this would happen. They say the year will be 2669. I thought about a woman, much like me, standing in the very spot where I stood, taking it in as well. Will this land still be occupied by a family? Will my house – and all of the memories in it – be bulldozed down to make space for a strip-mall? Will travel to the moon be so commonplace that this moment will not even matter? The thoughts seemed to upset me, but I pushed them aside and assured myself that someone – perhaps little girls like my children – would be looking at the same moon with the same awe. Those thoughts brought me great comfort as I got the courage to go back to bed – as sad as it was for me to say goodbye to the moon.
It was hard for me to fall back asleep. My hands were freezing at this point. As I attempted to warm-up and fall asleep, cognizant that there was no precise blessing for this moment, I began to instinctively chant these words to myself as I was dozing off:
מַה גָּדְלוּ מַעֲשיךָ ה’. מְאד עָמְקוּ מַחְשבתֶיךָ
How amazing are Your works, God, how subtle Your designs (Psalm 92).
We have been blessed with this once-in-lifetime experience. This marvel of the world has graced my life and connected me with so many others whose hearts stood with me in awe.
And then it hit me: we need not wait for another lunar eclipse to appreciate the power of any given moment.
Each day, each minute, I thought to myself, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Every day we wake up has given us a miracle. Every moment is like none other. It’s up to us to look at these moments with awe and gratitude. And we don’t even need the moon to remind us of that.