Celebrating a Rocky Mountain Eclipse

I planned last week’s visit to Denver not to coincide with the longest lunar eclipse since the 1440s, but to spend Thanksgiving with part of my family. Sometimes, though, you just get lucky.

There’d been lots of chatter leading up to the big event, not because lunar eclipses are rare—they happen a couple of times every year—but because this one would last for more than six hours. It was to begin on November 19 at 11:02 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, achieve maximum coverage at 2:02 the next morning and end at 5:03 a.m. That would give me plenty of chances to see it. I could stay up to watch it start, view it at its finest during my middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom and then wake up early enough to watch it finish.

That’s not what happened.

I arrived in Denver not long before sunset and was thrilled to witness the rising of the full “Beaver Moon” with my Colorado grandkids. We talked about the moon and the sun and how a lunar eclipse happens when those two heavenly bodies line up with the Earth positioned between them. As the Earth’s shadow moves across the moon, we experience a lunar eclipse. Though this eclipse wouldn’t be “total” (meaning that no part of the moon peeks out from the shadow), the moon would be 97 percent covered.

Because Friday was a school day, the children (ages six and three) would sleep through the whole thing. They didn’t much seem to care. I, however, was totally psyched about the eclipse until about 9:00. That was 10:00 according to my Central Standard Time body clock, which was and is still confused since going off Daylight Saving Time. I’d arisen in Cookeville before daylight so that I’d have plenty of time to drop Kamala off at the kennel and make it to the Nashville airport in the pouring rain without having to make an O.J. Simpson dash to my gate. I didn’t nap on the plane and had walked more than three airport miles, dragging my carry-on suitcase behind me. Perhaps a brisk shower would revive me enough to stay up until the eclipse started. Nope. It only made me sleepier. So I gave up and went to bed, certain that my bladder would serve as a trusty alarm clock.

It did.

The double window in the bedroom where I sleep at Daughter’s house faces west. That means a view of the distant Rocky Mountains in the daytime. It’s also the perfect place to watch the setting of the sun and of the moon. At 2:00 Friday morning, I opened the curtains and pulled the blinds all the way up. Then I climbed back into bed and stared out the window in wonder. The blood-red moon, almost completely shrouded in shadow, was so perfectly framed in the window that it was almost like watching it on TV. Maybe it would have been an even better show if I’d pulled a quilt off the closet shelf and taken it downstairs and out to the back yard, where I could lie in the grass and watch the spectacular moon grow lower and brighter.

But I didn’t do that. Instead, I left the blinds wide open, pulled the covers up around my chin and vowed that I would try my best to stay awake until daybreak.

Nope again. I fell fast asleep and didn’t awake until 7:00 when something sweet and soft touched my face. Grandson Oliver, not much taller than the top of the mattress, was petting me. “Marmie,” he whispered, “it’s time to get up.” I turned toward the window and saw that the moon was gone. The rising sun lit the snow-capped Rockies. And I was thankful to be in Denver to celebrate all of it.

(November 27, 2021)