by Roy Lukes

Splendid Lunar Spectacle in Store Jan. 20th

A full moon over Lighthouse Point in Baileys Harbor

One of the astronomical spectacles this year will occur on the night of January 20th. A total eclipse of the moon will begin at around 8 P.M. CST with the moon being entirely within the shadow of the earth from 10:02-11:22 P.M. CST. Winter air, being relatively free of moisture, can make viewing this eclipse downright awesome, assuming that the sky will be clear.

Many of you could write a book based upon your many wonderful experiences related to the moon. So could I! Growing up in Kewaunee, we boys spent countless hours at the Lake Michigan beach watching the moon slowly rise above the horizon. How we enjoyed those quiet, private, precious times.

One of my most memorable "moon" experiences occurred in early November of 1971. I had met Charlotte Koch that previous August at the Ridges Sanctuary and began courting her, my problem being that I had to drive all the way to Milwaukee, her hometown, to do so! It was while driving home after midnight, my "head in the clouds," (I still had not proposed marriage to her) that I encountered the moon slowly rising above Lake Michigan. The very next morning I wrote the following story, over 28 years ago.

"A waning butter-colored last quarter moon, breathtakingly close, has inched its way up into the clear cold November nighttime sky, lacing the fleecy clouds riding the lake horizon beneath it with silvery edgings. My route home from Milwaukee has taken me north of Algoma along the dark and lonely county highway paralleling and hugging the Lake Michigan shore, riding high on top of the steep clay banks. Now and then the road dips lower and closer to the lake suddenly opening the long, shimmering, mirror-studded ribbon of moon reflection, brilliant and choppy away from the shore, glassy smooth with gentle swells just off shore, protected there from the west wind by the lake bank.

"Orion, broadcasting winter, lies low on his side just above Lake Michigan to the east. High above, over his head, twinkling – are the Pleiades, Seven Sisters to many people. Home now, I stand outside the back kitchen door for the longest time looking out over the moonlit meadow and spruces, listening, thinking, wishing, drinking in the brisk evening beauty. I purposely breathe slowly and easily, as quietly as I can. Not one single man-made sound – not one! Indescribably beautiful!

"There is something magical and captivating about this kind of sky, such that I don’t want to miss admiring a single one, just as though suddenly the moon and stars might go into hiding and never again decorate the night sky. No more starlight nights! Could you possibly imagine such a happening?

"Ask your friends, your family, your teachers, ‘Which planets dot the visible heavens this night, or now about that brilliant star hanging low in the east now (before sunrise!), or which constellations pattern the dark fall sky?’ Chances are your answers will be few, if any.

"Suppose that a new ‘star schedule’ came to be, that for some reason or other the stars and the moon would come into view only once a year, or five years, or ten years! How the people would study and plan and prepare for this awesome spectacle. Perhaps millions of TV’s, thanks to this stupendous event, would be left dark, unwatched; people would be ‘unglued’ from them!

"The quarter moon has climbed above the maples now, smiling in its ‘eye-winking’ shape down upon the lake causing the lower rangelight to stand out clearly. The bay appears to be alive in its brilliance. It has been said that the amateur who observes the moon phases systematically, night after night, is of no ordinary breed. Study the revolution and rotation of the earth and the revolution of the moon around it and you will discover that the moon appears to rise about fifty minutes, on the average, later each evening. It is already rising at midnight just one week after full moon…

"Ancient Eskimos looked at the moon and its reflected light as a man, so potent in its maleness that a young woman, drinking of the moonlit water upon which this powerful virile god had showered his light, could become pregnant. The gift of silver to the race of man, originally in the form of shimmering tears, came from moonlit waters, or so the Peruvian Indians thought.

"Needless to say, modern man has erased for all time, scores of these beautiful age-old legends and moon-mysteries with his moon walks. But this will not change the spiritual splendor of the moon rising over the lake horizon, nor will it dampen the lonely melancholy howling and yipping of some great wild wolf of the north, lured into song, too, by the golden beauty of the moon poking up over the spires of the boreal forest.

"Don’t cast the moon, or the stars, out of your lives. Study! Learn of their splendid intricacies and occurrences in the night sky. Plan your calendar to regularly include this show of shows, free of charge, increasing with excitement from night to night as your knowledge grows. Perhaps you, too, will not want to miss a single show. And somebody up there will like you!

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This column appeared in the Door County Advocate on 01/14/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Roy Lukes. All rights reserved.