I step out onto the back porch and call to my roommates to come look at the sky over Lake Monona.
The two boys make their way to the back balcony and are taken in by the blood moon.
Moments later, they’ve dialed their mothers. One is instructing his mother in English, the other in Polish, to look outside.
I don’t speak Polish, but I don’t have to.
Watching as the ashen red shadow stretches across the moon, I grab my Nikon DSLR camera and dip out from the house.
I make the way down my street, headed towards the lake. I’ve dialed my dad to ask if he’s looked outside yet.
I cross the railroad tracks in the dark and then the highway running alongside Lake Monona. Bikes lean against the trees dotting the shoreline, and people sit in pairs every twenty yards, or so.
I settle into the grass myself and watch the water rippling beyond the rocks before me. Across the water, the shore line is illuminated with various hues of city and street lights. I can hear unseen fireworks being lit off somewhere in the distance.
I overhear the pair of boys sitting in the grass to the right of me talking about test grades. I laugh to myself, the conversation seems like such a strange juxtaposition on a night like this.
I begin to wonder how many other people are outside staring up at the starry sky for the first time in a long time tonight. And I wonder how many of them are reminded of the complexity of life. Or are wondering about the possibility of life beyond earth.
The lower edge of the moon burns like the dying embers of a fire, I’m filled with a sense of anxiety that the moon is about to light off and float up into the night like a hot air balloon.
Looking through my camera’s viewfinder, I’m taken back.
I’m twelve again, standing in my childhood backyard. But the moon is changing colors over a different lake. Lake Superior. My dad has set up the telescope and my brothers and I all stand poised to take our turns looking through the lens to watch the earth eclipse the moon.
I think back to the short conversation I just had with my dad. He said my older brother had already texted him, and my dad in turn had turned around to call my twin brother. The desire and bond to share with our family was so striking to me.
Even though my family is living across two different time zones and each of us five hours in various directions, we are still drawn to share with one another.
I wonder if tonight my siblings thought about our childhood stargazing.
Now, I try to think 30 years into the future. Thirty years from now, will I remember standing on the balcony to share the blood moon with my roommates? Or lying in this grass next to the lake? Or will we have found life beyond earth?
I don’t know.
But for now, I’ll take in the moon and the cool September air that’s just taking on the crispness of fall. I’ll enjoy the grass lining the shore banks before it’s covered in snow. I’ll put aside my to-do list to just write, to capture this moment.