Summer Solstice Lunar Eclipse, Santiago, Chile

I didn’t plan on seeing the first solstice lunar eclipse in 372 years. While having dinner with friends around 11PM we looked out from their 10th floor terrace towards the east to see the full moon hanging in the sky just above La Cordillera de Los Andes. The summer solstice full moon was so beautiful that it got us talking about setting our alarms for the big event, but the thought of waking up at 3 o’clock on a Tuesday morning seemed a bit much to everyone, even to me who had already started a vacation of sorts having let go of my early morning writing schedule.

Shortly before midnight we said goodbye and half an hour later were at home. I stood on the balcony of our apartment to say goodnight to the moon before falling into bed. Not withstanding the jet lag and the late dinner I was exhausted and fell quickly asleep. Then I woke up. Slipping quietly out of bed I went out on the balcony. I had no idea what time it was; there was no sign of the eclipse. The moon was still big and beautiful and so bright that it hurt my eyes.  I noticed that it was approaching Cerro Manquehue to the northeast just across the Rio Mapocho on its trajectory across the sky. I went back to bed and fell asleep again.

I awoke a second time and once again went out not the balcony. The moon had passed over Manquehue and was now a shadow of its former self with a third of it darkened by a black smudge that turned rusty at its edges. It’s on its way I thought but sleep had its grip on me and I went back to bed.

The third time I awoke and went out onto the balcony, the black smudge of the earth had moved to the moon’s center. It was still beautiful but eery. Circling its dark center was a rusty corona and around this was another pale yellow ribbon. I noticed how quiet it was, even at this early morning hour when one expects quiet.  I looked again to remember it and then fell back into bed and asleep.

The next morning, I excitedly shared my story. No one could believe that I had seen it. “You really set your alarm?” they asked.

“No, not at all,” I said. “I just woke up. I have no idea how I kept waking up; I just did.”

They laughed., still not believing me. I smiled. The experience was all mine.

All original content copyright 2010 Mary E. Slocum


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