Moonbeams gone missing

Posted on October 10, 2014. Filed under: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Columns | Tags: , , , , |

I didn’t expect any company when I went outside in the wee hours on Wednesday morning to look at the sky.

The tad of Indian Summer must have re-energized a couple of our infamous state insects, which greeted me with fittingly vampiric fervor on the occasion of the “Blood Moon.”

It was a fabulous October night to be outdoors, with cool temperatures and shimmering stars in the clear autumn air.

Over roughly an hour’s time, the sun’s reflection shining as a glorious full moon was reduced to a darkened disc, from luminous lunar beacon to shadow-shrouded celestial body.

It was as though some cosmic light switch had been flipped off.

Long before it became a legal term used to write rights into the constitution, a penumbra was one of three parts of a shadow, that section in which only a portion of the light source is obscured by the occluding body.

It’s how an eclipse begins, and is an inspiring phenomenon to behold.

No wonder a younger humanity quaked and quivered over the unknown power that could smother the lunar lamp of their skies. Had the maker of heaven and earth masked the moon for a reason? A portending prophecy, perhaps? An imminent disaster?

Even the most level-headed ancients must have faltered slightly when Chicken Littles pointed with sky-falling terror to an extinguished moon.

Was the descent of darkness to next befall the earth? If Luna could lose its luster, would Sol soon follow suit?

A train rumbled in the distance, reminding me that fear is dispatched best with knowledge and technology.

The specter before me once unfolded to mankind as a fearful, firmament cataclysm.

Yet no fright accompanied Wednesday’s pre-dawn spectacle.

It was only interplanetary sleight-of-hand. A disappearing act, an illusory marvel in the early morning atmosphere. A rare firsthand affirmation of change as constant in our world, our solar system and our galactic universe.

Life is motion.

Gravity-planted with our feet on the ground, it’s hard to comprehend that the earth and sun and moon are in perpetual flight, spinning and circling with metered precision.

Watching the nighttime shadow of my street stretch all the way to the moon, and methodically move across the lunar visage, was a masterful visual documentary. I gleaned a physical sense of the earth’s rotation and the moon’s revolution–proof positive of science triumphing myth, of fact confirming theory.

Then, as ordained by the creator to whom we owe well-ordered orbits in addition to our natural rights, the return to astral normalcy slowly ascended as the world turned and the moon set in the west.

Out of darkness came light—a recurring theme rooted in both man and nature—as first a sliver of moon was re-lit and grew, surely and steadily pushing penumbra shadow from its cratered face.

Spectacularly, as the moon sank beneath the western horizon, the east was ablaze.

Day following night. A course held true. Everything in its season.

Technically, I witnessed a lunar eclipse. But as stargazing experiences go, enhanced by the stirring October breeze, it was illuminating and enlightening.

Too close for comfort

Just after midnight on Monday night, a Craighead County deputy pulled over a pickup that had wandered over the centerline and then failed to use a turn signal.

At that point, nobody knows whether the ensuing traffic stop will be routine or turn deadly.

Not the police officer. Not the driver. And none of the millions of citizens asleep in their beds.

Only a day or two later, when the incident makes the local news, do the details unfold.

The story they tell is a scary one, despite its safe if not happy ending.

Walking up to the driver’s window, the officer smelled alcohol. He didn’t yet know that the driver was a parolee, with a suspended driver’s license, driving a truck with a Pontiac car’s license plate on it.

According to reports, he wouldn’t learn until a few minutes later that the driver had nearly $6,000 worth of meth with him, and was carrying a loaded .40-cal. handgun in a Cheetos bag.

Or that the driver had been convicted of felony battery in 2013 in the six-on-one beating of a man—and also of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Thankfully and luckily, the arrest early Tuesday morning came off uneventfully.

The driver faces several charges related to the drugs, the gun and the un-seat-belted 5-year-old child he had in the vehicle with him at 2:15 a.m.

If justice prevails, the driver will be locked up where he belongs for a long time.

But that’s a big if—he should have already been locked up.

This non-headline incident should serve as smelling salts to society as evidence, once again, that violent criminals don’t change their stripes if let out of prison. They arm themselves (this driver’s gun was stolen, if you’re wondering how he passed the background-check law), and soon begin endangering others.

Because nothing bad happened, and no one was hurt, we’ll collectively put our heads back in the sand.

Until something does, and someone is.

It’s too bad we don’t learn more from near-tragedies.

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One Response to “Moonbeams gone missing”

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Great story cuz


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