Thursday, January 6, 2011

Copper Moon

I understand from some comments made by facebook friends that the full eclipse on the night of the winter solstice, the first in 372 years, was at least partially visible in San Francisco. Since I am old and grumpy, I couldn't be bothered staying up to find out.

Instead I contented myself with the recollection of a really spectacular eclipse which occurred here  in June one year in the mid-70's. The fogs had lifted, the atmosphere was sparkling, the temperature warm, and the moment of totality was well before midnight--a perfect set-up for moon viewing, against all the prevailing odds, given the exigencies of a San Francisco summer.

I climbed up from Castro Street to the top of Corona Heights, where I knew there were no trees to obscure the view heavenwards. The show was spectacular even without the employment of substances; after sitting zazen awhile, the moon felt so close that you could reach up and touch it. There's a special mysticism involved with total eclipses that elevates you from the bonds of earthdom and puts you right out there in the cosmos somewhere. I can well understand how some enthusiasts will travel anywhere on the planet to witness a total solar eclipse.

I walked home after midnight and wrote a memory-poem to memorialize the event. In those days you could hitchhike easily and efficiently around the Bay Area if you had long hair, and earlier that day I had been enjoying a pleasant afternoon on the nudie beach at Devil's Slide.

Written on the day of the total lunar eclipse
in San Francisco

During the first warm week of the year
I hitchhiked down the coast to Devil's Slide
Beach. Yellow and red ice-plant flowers
swarmed down the cliffs. A hundred naked
oiled bodies lay upon the sand, as if felled
by the brilliant sun. Others played frisbee
at the edge of the ocean. The surf was
high, because of the imminent full moon.
The same evening I climbed a hill overlooking
Eureka Valley. Once a small quarry, the place
was studded with small jagged carved cliffs.
Wildflowers were visible everywhere in the
pale light. On the crest of the hill, some
persons meditated, chanted OM, and played
flutes. Others were drinking wine and making
foolish noises. An hour before midnight
the Scorpio moon gradually turned the color
of copper.

Photo Chris Hetlage,