I grew up in a time when going to the moon was still a novelty. So new, in fact, that if you had asked other kids in my class what they wanted to be when they grew up, at least a handful would have said, “An astronaut.” (Not me, of course; I always wanted to an author.)

I did get interested in astronomy, though … eventually: in fifth grade, when Miss Kull told us — all full of the enthusiasm that only aerobics instructors and certain elementary teachers can muster — that if we went outside, about an hour after sunset, we could see Jupiter in the Eastern sky. (At least I think it was the Eastern sky; that’s the direction I looked, anyway, and I’m pretty sure I remember seeing a “star” that was distinctly brighter than the rest. And it wasn’t twinkling!)

Miss Kull also told us about a lunar eclipse that was coming up, and I made sure to watch for that, too. I learned all the planets, in order: Mary Very Easily Makes Jam. SUN spells “sun,” and Pluto’s all alone. (In case you forgot: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto — the since-banished planet.)

I’ve been watching the sky — albeit with frequent distractions — every since.

As an astronomer, however, I have proven, this month, to be an abject failure.

First there were the Perseid meteor showers that took place a few weeks ago. Perfect viewing conditions, experts said, for the night that was supposed to have the highest level of activity: few clouds and no moon, making for a dark sky — allowing the meteors to be even more visible.

I slept right through it.

When I read about the full lunar eclipse that was to occur this morning, I was determined not to miss it. In fact, I was hoping to photograph the event, too. I figured I could set up the mini-tripod, maybe even take some time-lapse photos; I even hauled out my “film” camera for the first time in I-can’t-remember-when!

I shot some photos of the almost-full moon early in the evening, just for practice. Then I went about my usual Monday-night activities: Watching The Closer and Saving Grace, in-between coverage of the U.S. Open (normally, I’d be watching a baseball game or two, also). I was pleased to discover several rolls of film — including some 400 and 800 speed — in my Tamrac bag, but the battery in the trusty Canon Elan II EOS was just about to flat-line. After Grace, I drug myself to Wally World to get a new battery; when I returned, I watched the end of Cold Case and headed to bed shortly after 11 p.m. I set my usual alarm for 6:30 a.m. and the second for 5 a.m., which I figured would give me plenty of time to watch the eclipse — even if I had to drive over to the road by the airport (I had no idea exactly where in the sky the moon would be at that time).

I wasn’t thrilled by the notion of getting up at 5, but what the heck? I’ll still get a good six hours of sleep, I told myself.

And then I proceeded to toss. And turn. And wonder about such useless topics as the price of hamburger (and bubble gum!) in India. Before I knew it, I glanced over at the clock and saw that it was already after midnight!

I should take some NyQuil, I thought. That’ll knock me out.

No, you can’t take NyQuil just because you can’t get to sleep, I reasoned.

I lay there for a few more minutes.

You know, those mosquito bites on my legs are really itching, I thought. I really should take some Benadryl!

With that, I was up and off to the bathroom to find my over-the-counter allergy-relief medicine; you know, the one that (temporarily, at least) puts me out of my misery every time I get poison ivy.

In a few minutes, I was unconscious. Until just before 5 a.m., at which point I awakened as if I’d been catapulted against a brick wall.

Groggily, I grabbed my glasses and put them on, staggered out of bed, slipped on my shoes, gathered up my cameras and went outside.

There, to the south and west, was the moon in the midst of a full lunar eclipse. It was perfectly round and kind of a dusty maroon, with just a hint of yellow. In my half-still-asleep state, I tried to snap a few photos with both cameras, but I could tell there was no way I was going to be able to get enough light for a decent picture. And, naturally, thanks to my overall lack of preparation, I had forgotten about the possibility of setting up my tripod.

This is the best I could come up with … and it, to paraphrase Napoleon Dynamite, is pretty much the worse lunar eclipse photo ever:


(The blur effect should not be interpreted as actual movement on the part of the fully eclipsed moon; it is mostly the result of my [digital] camera shooting at a speed of about half a second [or more] and my inability to hold the camera too steady.)

I stared at the moon with half-shut eyes for a few minutes, and then I decided to go back to bed. I can come back out in 20 minutes or so and see what the moon’s doing then, I told myself.

I collapsed onto my bed and wrapped myself in my covers — and did not get up again until 6:20 a.m., by which time the eclipse had undoubtedly ended and the moon had already set.

I decided that I do, indeed, occasionally feel the pull of the moon; however, it sometimes doesn’t compare to the lure of a warm bed!