Sunday, November 09, 2003


They interviewed a local astronomer on the radio yesterday about the lunar eclipse but I had really forgotten all about it when my companion told me that the sight of it was sure to cause a few traffic accidents. He was driving us to dinner as he said this and was looking up at the sky rather than down at the road. I'd rather you pull over if you want to guarda la luna (this being the first Italian phrase I ever learned. Torta and gelato, cake and ice cream, were my first two words. Guess how old I was) I said. He did.

I must admit, it was an impressive sight. Instinctively, it looks wrong, and importantly so. The radio astronomer had talked for a while about how people used to think eclipses were very bad omens . I could see their point. Even though we've apparently now mapped out the lunar schedule ad infinitum, an eclipse, when you can see it, is arresting. It looks for a while like a new moon, but backwards. For a split second before I remembered how it worked I did think "something's not right." It's not unlike the feeling I get when I walk outside in the subzero sunshine of a Minnesota February day and think "this could kill me." Then my rational self steps in and replaces the thought with "and what dope thought it was a good idea to build a city here?"

During dinner, I was able to use what I had learned about eclipses from the radio show to act like I knew what I was talking about but when I had exhausted this (and this happened pretty quickly), I lost interest in the subject. My dining companion, on the other hand, kept staring at the eclipse and trying to work out the mechanics of the event. This is not something I think you can figure out without some training in the subject. Plus, it's kind of boring to watch someone try (this was not one of those restaurants with crayons and white tablepaper; he was trying to do it with hand gestures). To get him to stop, I promised to look it up later. For him, and those of you who still care, here's how lunar eclipses work.

Now, guarda la donna.


Post a Comment