I was in New York City last month, during the lunar eclipse.
I’d gone out for an evening walk with my son and the streets were littered with more pedestrians than a usual Sunday. The moon was so unbelievably bright, at first we were sure the shadows cast were from street lamps. As we rounded a corner and caught sight of the full moon, we were stunned and had to stop. It seemed bright enough for sunglasses and large enough to be disorienting and unreal.
It was as if we were watching a last gasp; the gaudy moon showing off just one last time before being forcibly hidden from view by Earth’s shadow.
Scores of people were out walking and chatting, and then, as if a switch had been flipped, we all stopped were we stood and looked up; some right in the middle of the street. It was something from an M. Night Shyamalan film.
My son and I sat on a wall along Riverside Drive next to batches of others who’d chosen the spot for optimal moon viewing. It was a warm, quiet kind of reverential party, like we were attending a birth.
After a while, we decided to walk on, interested in watching people as much as the sky. My son took some photos on street corners, seas of faces turned up, eyes wide. People spoke more easily with each other as we shared this experience.
On a crowded corner, I saw an older couple crossing the street toward where I stood. They both had tufts of white/grey cotton-candy hair and age-stooped shoulders. There was something about the cautious and considerate way they contained their space that felt like a prayer.
I couldn’t help but hear a piece of their conversation.
Him: This particular kind of moon and eclipse hasn’t happened in 30 years. So that makes it pretty special.
Her: Can we stop to watch it? Just for a little while? I don’t think I’ll get another chance.
Him: Me neither.