November Sky

I was awakened yesterday morning by the rain drumming on the air conditioner. I saw a flash of lightning through my closed eyes, and heard thunder a moment later. At that point, I gave up on eclipse watching, and decided it would be a good day to sit at home, read, and generally take it easy. But sometime in the evening, Andy looked out the window and saw the full Moon.

Around 11, I decided that yes, I would stay up with him to watch the eclipse, or try to. We had tea, and I read and addressed zines while he played computer games. (This is less a matter of gender stereotyping than of my fear that staring at a screen would put me to sleep.) Our windows face southeast, so the Moon was out of sight before much could be seen. Around 12:30, we bundled up and went outside. The cold was something of a shock: it had been 60 degrees when I was last out, ten hours earlier. The left side of the moon was in shadow, but it looked more like any waxing moon than like an eclipse, at that stage. A dog barked in the distance, and the train whistles sounded from across the river. "Quack!" More startling than the trains, since I expected the ducks to be asleep by then. But the water was choppy, the fish were moving around and leaving little bubbles on the surface, and the ducks and swans were paddling, feeding, quacking, and acting more like noon than midnight. We walked around under the starry sky as the moon slowly faded into shadow, a pearly gray sphere with a shrinking rim of brightest white. At totality, I was lying on a slanted board (intended as exercise equipment) with field glasses in front of my eyes, staring at the moon through the bare branches of a tree. The breeze was cold, the ducks were calling, and it was beautiful. There was no definable moment at which I could say "this is it": the moon kept a bright rim, first on the bottom, then on the left, well after the time at which totality was supposed to start. Earthlight, or some odd distortion: I had a tear in my eye.

Totality was at 1:02 a.m. New York time, and about ten minutes later, I decided it was time to head in. Halfway back, I was taking one more look at the moon and the Pleiades when I heard a loud honking. A white bird was circling low over the water: two circles and then she landed. The snow goose who is spending the winter. This is the first time I've seen her land. Gorgeous.

At the edge of the park, we met a gray cat. He lives in the grocery downstairs, and was very happy to see us: came right over to be stroked, rubbed against my legs, let Andy pick him up, then leaned his front paws on my leg, everything he could think of to explain that he was cold and lonely. We were sympathetic enough that we encouraged him to follow us: we can't let him into the apartment, because the cat who lives there wouldn't stand for it, but we thought he might like the lobby, and at that hour nobody would be able to blame us for bringing him in. He came into the vestibule, then looked nervous, so we let him out again: cold it might be, but he was a Cat of the Streets, not willing to go somewhere he couldn't get out of.

Upstairs, we took off our clothes, warmed our chilled limbs, and went to bed. The last thing Andy said to me that night was "You're a good person to watch an eclipse with."

Copyright 1993 Vicki Rosenzweig

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