Thursday, February 21, 2008

A midwinter's night dream

SNOUT: Doth the moon shine that night we play our play?

BOTTOM: A calendar, a calendar! look in the almanac; find out moonshine, find out moonshine.

QUINCE: Yes, it doth shine that night.

Oh yes, it shined. Then it didn't shine. Then it shined again. On schedule, as the almanac said. And we the players played.

Couldn't have asked for a more perfect night. Not a cloud in the sky. The waves lapping gently at the sand. Enough of a breeze to keep the bugs away. Neighbor Dwight and our two granddaughters made a splendid bonfire. The neighbors gathered. Drinks and snacks. And then, at 9:43 PM exactly, the moon touched the Earth's shadow.

As bright an eclipse as I can recall, more tangerine-colored than coppery. What I love about the moon in eclipse is the way it looks positively three-dimensional. This is an illusion, due to the uneven illumination of the moon's surface (the shadow is darkest at its center, lighter toward the edge). But still, there it is, a globular pearl, a luscious fruit.

And at totality, what a sky! Bedazzled with stars. Saturn and Regulus keeping company with the moon. The winter Milky Way. Lordy, even the Double Cluster in Perseus was a fine naked eye object. We lay back in our beach chairs and gaped.

An hour later, the moon edged into direct sunlight, "like to a silver bow
New-bent in heaven" to bless the night of our solemnities.