Now that I’ve started the PhD program at Virginia Tech, I drive to the Blacksburg campus one day a week for classes. In order to get to my 9:00 a.m. class, I leave my house at 4:00 a.m. Needless to say, much of the drive is illuminated by artificial light — street lights and headlights from my car. Once I get into the hills and mountains outside the Washington, D.C. area, street lights disappear, as well as the light pollution from the metroplex. An amazingly bright moon (and BBC news on XM radio) kept me company.
As I drove, I thought about the disparity between people who live without power around the world — even today — and the hi-tech culture that sends humans to space. Technology enables me to look at photos of moonrises from space in near realtime. Some cultures may never see those pictures.
Lost in thought, I noticed something odd. Light kept flashing on and off the road in front of me and bounced off the hood of my car — like a pulsating flood light from a helicopter, but engulfing too great a distance to be manmade. I looked up through my sunroof to see the source.
The trees on top on the mountain cutaway created a filter pattern, blocking and revealing the moon, strobe-light fashion, as I drove through. It dawned on me:
I’d never seen them before, that I can recall. What a cool experience in the black of night to have the heavenly light-dance in front of and all around me. A song from my distant past flooded into my memory: Cat Stevens’ Moonshadow.
“Yes, I’m being followed by a moonshadow
Leaping and hopping on a moonshadow
In my case, I was embraced by a moon shadow.
What is the significance of any of this? I’m not sure. I just felt the need to share the wonder and awe I felt driving through moon shadows, even just for a few minutes. I felt connected, in some strange way, to humans who walked on the surface of that huge reflecting orb in the sky. I felt sad for Astronaut Ron Garan who leaves behind, probably forever, the magnificent view he has of the moon and stars from Space Station.
Thank you, Moon, for inviting me to your shadow-dance performance. You made my day!