Okay. I admit it. I can’t actually help myself when an opportunity to haiku arises (I may just have made that verb up, but I like it 🙂 ). I was going to call my haiku collection complete at 30 (I was saving number 30 for the first frost) but today was too good an opportunity to miss, too rich an experience not to explore.
At 11.55 am BST today, the lunar eclipse was going to be at totality – there would be a second chance this year to see a blood moon. I watched the first total lunar eclipse in April, live-streamed from the Griffith Observatory in the US. It was a fantastic experience : I felt connected to the people at the observatory who were witnessing the celestial spectacle, and I felt connected to our small corner of the universe too. People were really enjoying their connection to the moon, shouting “Dragon be gone!” as they urged the orange-red dragon breath to disappear and give the moon back to Earth.
So, today the impulse to watch the live-stream of the second total lunar eclipse of the year took me by surprise. It wasn’t going to be a brand new experience, and I knew how total lunar eclipses worked, so I wondered if the experience might feel “less than” my first experience.
I tuned into the livestream from the Griffith Observatory about 20 minutes before totality. This time there were no crowds, just a few commentators. It wasn’t being celebrated in the same way, and yet I did experience the witnessing of this event as a much deeper, primitive, somatic celebration. I didn’t feel connected to the people in the same way, and yet I did feel connected to the human story in a very profound way. And this experience not only took me by surprise, it took my breath away.
During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth stands between the Moon and the Sun. The Earth covers the Sun – but not completely. If you were to look at the Earth during a total lunar eclipse, you would see a halo of fire around its entire circumference. The halo you would observe is every sunset and sunrise happening on Earth simultaneously!
As the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow, the light from the Sun is “bent” around the Earth and causes a bloody, ferrous glow . The Moon becomes blood-red because it reflects this ferrous glow. The Moon is reflecting back to the observer all the sunrises and sunsets on Earth – all at once!
Now, when you stop for a moment and really consider what you’re witnessing … well, you could see how that might take your breath away, right? And when you stop and really consider the symbolism of simultaneous beginnings and endings, of births and deaths, of eternal and inevitable cycles … and when you stop and really consider that you are observing this happening on a planet-size scale … and that you are seeing everything all at once… you begin to realise that a total lunar eclipse eclipse is, in fact, a haiku in its own right. The Sun and the Moon work together to write a haiku of cosmological proportions across the night sky . During the totality of an eclipse, you get to witness the essence of existence … in its totality… all at once. To be more precise, you don’t just witness it, you feel it in your body in such a way that it causes you to reflect too… just like the Moon.
Today reminded me that every moment is new. Every experience (even repeated) offers something new. And for the first time, I understood (I mean I REALLY got) the value of the haiku. For me, beneath the words of today’s haiku sits “everything”… all at once… in one breath. And that bone-deep understanding doesn’t just take your breath away, it makes you cry.
You can read today’s haiku here, and I read it out loud on today’s video blog.
I am just going outside and I may be some time.