It was about 1 AM in Tucson, Arizona, on the morning of December 21. I unlocked my front door, stepped into the night and looked up towards the heavens. There it was: a rust-colored moon in almost total eclipse, floating in and out of view behind a mottled layer of broken clouds. Even though the sky wasn’t as clear as I would have liked, the view was gorgeous, and it was made all the more special by the fact that the next winter solstice eclipse isn’t due until 2094 – eighty-four years distant. That’s pretty far away in human time, but not as far removed as we in 2010 are from the last folks who got to see such an awesome sight.
It was 372 years ago, 1638, when a lunar eclipse last coincided with a winter solstice. As I sat on my front steps enjoying the spectacle in the night sky above me, feeling the gentle breeze brushing my face and hearing the mournful cries of some nearby coyotes, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of connection with my distant ancestors. I don’t know who or where they were, but somewhere close to four centuries ago, my forbears gazed into a star-filled expanse to watch the full moon redden and dim. It may sound a bit silly, but I felt connected to them, as if this celestial event was bridging time and linking us together in spirit.
I think part of that connectedness stems from the fact that, like the light reflected by the moon, each of us is a reflection of the generations of our family that preceded us. My DNA, physical characteristics and maybe even personality traits were bequeathed to me by those long-lost relatives; precious gifts of identity for which I give thanks daily. One thing they didn’t pass along to their descendants were their personal stories – understandable given that, for them, just surviving was probably the order of the day. But thanks to today’s technology, we have opportunities our ancestors in 1638 didn’t have. You and I can pass along our life stories, including our reactions to the 2010 lunar eclipse, to coming generations in the form of personal video biographies. If we create these legacy videos now, before it’s too late, our descendants won’t be left wondering who we were. They’ll know, because we’ll be there to tell them each time they insert our DVDs and press “play.”
And won’t that be a wonderful reflection on us.