A full moon hangs high in the chilly sky,
All say it’s the same everywhere, round and bright.
But how can one be sure thousands of li away
Wind and perhaps
rain snow may not be marring the night?
– Li Qiao, a Chinese Tang Dynasty poet
The winter solstice begins today. This means that the days will begin to get longer and the length of night will begin to shorten. (Interesting, isn’t it, that so many cultures celebrate the “coming/returning/rebirth of light” at this point in the year. Wikipedia lists almost 40 different global celebrations). This year, the solstice coincided with a full lunar eclipse, which hasn’t happened in 372 years. This causes the moon to have a copperish glow. Unfortunately we were unable to see it in Chicago with snow and cloud cover in the way, though we were prepared to weather the elements and get a glimpse of it had it been clearer.
What is amazing is why the moon is not blacked out by this eclipse. After all, the earth is quite larger than the moon. However, in blocking out the direct rays from the sun, there are still light rays that are bent through the earth’s atmosphere, which tends to filter out the blue light. This is the same phenomena that gives sunrises and sunsets, actually “earth turns” (thank you Bucky Fuller), their reddish hue.
Though we missed the dramatic visual of the coppery entry to the Winter Solstice this year, we will definitely celebrate the growing light in our lives with family and friends.