For two hours this past Sunday night, life at Yale seemed to stop.
We felt it in the air as students began to trickle from coffee shops, from libraries and from their suites to gather in the middle of Cross Campus. Sitting on the damp grass, some of us were laughing and chatting with friends and others were somber and reflective. Yet, we were united with a single, simple purpose: to gaze up at the night sky. For once, we would be deliberate in admiring the beauty of something that is a constant fixture in all of our lives, and yet an object we often offer nothing more than a mere glance.
Tonight, we were there to watch the moon.
In all fairness, this wasn’t just any moon. It was a rare “super blood moon” that last occurred in 1982 and won’t be seen again until 2033. It got its eerie name since the earth’s shadow — with a bit of light creeping around the edges — casts an orange-red glow on the lunar surface. The moon was also at the closest point to earth in its orbit, giving it an even larger appearance than normal.
Though the science of it all is far more detailed, this column isn’t really about what made this celestial event so noteworthy. While everyone was looking up at the sky, I took a moment to focus my attention on the ground — the site of another rare and beautiful phenomenon: Yale at ease.
It was two hours — an infinitesimally small blip on the timeline of the universe, let alone the far shorter history of the University — but for those of us with midterms approaching, problem sets due the next day or readings to catch up on, those two hours were something. Whether you went out to East Rock to get as close to the moon as possible or pressed your face against the glass of your dorm room window, for that brief moment on Sunday night, the campus was united. There was no massive publicity campaign or posters plastered across campus in the weeks prior. It was simply the forces of nature — quiet and powerful — that like gravity pulled us away from our textbooks and computers, directing our thoughts and attention to something so much larger than ourselves.
Life at Yale isn’t easy — this sentiment is rehashed so many times that it almost goes without saying. In the fast-paced life of the Ivy League, one doesn’t get many breaks, or even much time to breathe. There’s always another paper due, another exam on the syllabus, another section to attend and another meeting on our Gcal. A Yalie scarcely has time to sleep before moving on to the “next big thing.” Social life, academics, sports — there’s only so much time in a day. And yet, every 24 hours, dusk falls, night settles, the moon appears and we go on.
“We should probably go back inside.” “I really don’t have time for this.” “Only five minutes more.” These were some of the comments I heard as I sat cross-legged in front of Sterling Memorial Library. Yes, some of us may not have gotten as much sleep that night, reviewed as many practice problems or read as many pages as we should have.
But Sunday was different. Somehow, we just hunkered down and got even cozier, sprawled out on someone’s blanket or huddled next to our friends. We waited for the orange-red light to spread completely across the moon, not moving until it was over, and even then, we wanted more. We wished it hadn’t happened so quickly, because for that one second of total eclipse, we had been reminded that we are more than students. We were just humans, like the other seven billion people under the same sky, watching something magical unfold.
And at a risk of sounding cliché, that’s what it was: magic. The mystery of the super blood moon eclipse wasn’t how it got that perfect ominous shade of red or how it could look so big when the moon has always been the same size. The real mystery of the super blood moon eclipse is why it took us so long to stop and stare; why it took a natural phenomenon for us to finally pause and marvel at how small we are and how big the universe is. The real magic of the super blood moon eclipse was that for a place so concerned with making it to the front of the stage, we all gave a collective bow.
My only hope is that it won’t take us until 2033 to do this again.
Andrea Mosqueda is a sophomore in Berkeley College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .