It Seemed so Far Off
The first total lunar eclipse I remember witnessing took place on August 17th 1989. I was 18 years old, getting ready to spend two years on a mission for the LDS church.
It was an eventful summer, one that saw me graduate from high school, get my wisdom teeth yanked, start and stop, then start again several different relationships with several different people. I also spent three months working at the Brian Head Hotel with several of my friends. We lived in the hotel in different rooms on the same floor. I was so very young, so very excited to be on such a grand adventure. I could think of no better people to spend it with. The entire experience felt very grown up. I was always fairly independent, but this was my first time really being away from home. I thought I was ready for anything and everything life could throw at me.
Things were far from perfect, however. I was to work the afternoon/night shift, helping prepare food in the hotel restaurant. Working as a glorified dishwasher, I cooked most of the items that were prepared on the broiler, baked most of the bread and the cheesecakes, and only washed dishes when absolutely necessary. It was often very hard work with very long hours. This meant I never saw my friends, who all worked the breakfast shift. I sometimes saw them in passing when I walked into the restaurant around noon, but they were all asleep when I finally finished working, often around 1 or 2 in the morning. There were rarely days off, maybe a Sunday, if no bus tours were staying at the hotel. I was lonely most of the time, but surprisingly enough, still having a grand time. When I did hang out with my friends, we went mountain biking, or wandered down the mountain to Cedar City or Parowon.
A mountain bike race taking place around Brian Head summit allowed me to get three days work as a driver for a cable company filming the event. The cameraman and I hit it off, and we had a great time driving the company Jeep Cherokee up and down dirt paths, following the riders. He would hang out the back of the Jeep, strapped in with a nylon belt and yell out to me to speed up, slow down, pass riders. It is one of my favorite memories.
Another is the lunar eclipse.
Summer ends early at 11,000 feet. The leaves were already beginning to change and the temperatures rarely got above 60 degrees during the day. It was a rare day off work, and the hotel, while not empty, was quiet. I remember walking down to the main building where the restaurant, bike shop, gift shop were located. Just out the back doors were two hot tubs for the guests. Employees were allowed in as long as guests were not waiting to use them. There was a couple using one of the tubs, so I climbed into the second. The moon was still bright white and the air was crisp and cool. Some hotel guests lingered about in the open area between the three buildings. All of us waited for the eclipse to begin.
I don’t remember looking at the sky as the eclipse started. I don’t remember if the moon looked muddy red. I do remember thinking how far away it looked, so tiny up in the sky. I recall laughing with the people in the other hot tub, and wishing I was sharing this moment with some people I cared about. I didn’t stay up for the entirety of the event. I wandered back to my hotel room, put on some music and went to sleep.
In many ways, I spent that summer on my own. I’d like to say I learned how to be alone, to not fear it, but that didn’t happen until a good six months into my mission. I spent a great deal of my off-work time at Brian Head feeling sorry for myself, homesick, and sad. A great deal of that gets buried in better memories and events from my time there. I met some amazing people and made some decent money.
I remembered my first lunar eclipse while watching last nights event. This time, the moon seemed so much closer, so much more red. Having Mars in the equation made it interesting and beautiful. I stood outside and stared for several minutes at a stretch. Sheryl watched for a moment with me, but she worked early, so she needed rest. At one point, I grabbed a heavy coat and sat on a patio chair in the backyard, letting the house block out most of the street lights.
Eventually, I went inside and laid prone on the floor, staring out the window of my office while the eclipse started to fade.
I watched while my house slept- The kids in the basement, Sheryl and Keyara in our bedroom. It was quiet and I remained mesmerized for almost two hours. I share this picture not because it remotely represents how amazing the sky looked last night, but because of how it reminds me of the first eclipse, how tiny the moon looked, and how long gone that summer at Brian Head is, and how distant that version of me is from the person I am today.
Time always moves at the same pace, day to day, hour to hour, and while it seems like every day is very much the same, somehow, we become such different people as the years pass. Most of the days vanish away from our memory, which is why I cling tight to the ones I do remember. Some of them remain quite impactful, forming much of who I have become, though some events that at the time seemed so significant, have faded into nothingness. It puzzles me, what I hold onto, what remains and what is lost forever.