Song of the Week: In a Black Out by Hamilton Leithauser
Last November I got chills lying beneath a lunar eclipse.
At 2:30 a.m. on November 19, the alarms my roommate and I had set 3 hours before went off. We knew the peak time would be at 3 a.m. and assumed we’d have trouble getting out of the warmth of our beds to see it, so we planned for a 30- minute buffer. When we set them, I wasn’t sure if I’d want to or even be able to get up in the middle of the night. I’ve always been more of an early bird than a night owl. And yet the hours that passed leading up to then were filled with fitful sleep, tossing and turning like the night before your birthday or when you have to catch an early flight. When the alarm finally went off, I was relieved.
We bundled up like marshmallows for the late-fall/early-winter night and sent off texts to the small group we’d planned to wake up with. They met us outside, behind Warch and Sage by the top of the stairs down to the woods — an area we at the recess loft affectionately call our back porch. And there it was. A big, dully-glowing, mostly-red spot in the sky. We looked and pointed, giggling like kids, wishing we could shout to every person on campus —
“Come outside! Look at the moon!”
There was a brief moment when we considered heading back inside. But then someone thought to ask, “I wonder what it looks like from the river”, and before we knew it, we were walking down the stairs and onto the dirt path through the woods.
We walked to the end, oohing and aahing at the glints of light through the empty tree branches. One of my STEM major friends explained to us the science of eclipses, with some help (or lack thereof) from those of us who maybe didn’t know what we were talking about but were nonetheless excited, and thought we did.
We came out by the footbridge, where we found a thin icy coating covering the planks. Gleefully, we shoe-skated out onto it, some of us taking turns pushing and pulling each other on the ice, and others yelling for them to be careful and not die. Sure enough, it was something else to see a lunar eclipse while standing in the middle of the Fox River. We lie down together on the bridge in a little dog pile, looking up at the sky.
“Did you know,” I said quietly to my friends, “that the reason the moon turns red during an eclipse, is because of the light bending around the earth?”
I looked around at them, snuggled up against each other, each of our hands tucked into each other’s pockets and gloves.
“It’s just like a sunset, when the sun’s low angle makes the sky turn pink and orange, except it’s happening everywhere around the circumference of the earth. So what we’re seeing is a million tiny sunsets hitting the moon at once.”
And we lay there and watched a million sunsets, breathing small plumes of warm air into the night.
Soon after that, someone (or maybe everyone) got cold, and someone else mentioned hot chocolate. We made quick work of getting back to the path and back up the stairs before heading inside for a big batch of cocoa.
We didn’t stay up much longer after that. If we did, I hardly remember it. The image that sticks in my mind as I think of it now is craning my neck from my recumbent position on the bridge to look around at my friends. The feeling of their coats and scarves pressed up against me, tickling the skin on my face, our arms interlocked and our toes tucked beneath each other.
Midnight, where we used to dance. Underneath the ugly halogen lamps.