What Does It Take to See the Supermoon?

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Since my house burned down
I now own a better view
of the rising moon
— Mizuta Masahide, Japanese poet

Almost five years ago when my daughter was just a newborn baby, I, like all new dads cast into the lifelong quest of fatherhood at merciless full speed, used a great number of techniques for quelling a crying baby. I learned to hum and bounce and walk and sway and shush and swaddle. And when none of those worked, I'd reload and try it all again in a new setting, outside. The way I remember it, taking my baby outside worked like a charm most of the time. Was it luck? Natural order? A wonderful, smart kid? Bang-up dad skills?

In the months and years that seemed like a microsecond, she began to pick up bits of language, her coos turned into words we understood in English. On the nights we'd take a walk outside, her little body cuddled in my arms, she would point to the sky and tell me, "tars," and "moon." My little ripper took to learning about the elements of the natural world with happy wonder.

Last month, we were driving a narrow ridge road in the mountains toward a highway but still miles to go on dirt. We'd spent the afternoon hiking and searching for fresh wildflowers, and as we drove the sun began to set. My daughter, who is now almost 5 years old, demanded we stop the truck and watch the sun until it finally dropped behind the horizon. So we watched, the sun burned the sky with gold and yellow and orange, and she hollered, "Look! It's almost gone! It's almost gone!"

And when it was gone, she asked if we could do it over. So we explained as best we could that the sun won't be available for the show until tomorrow; that now we get the treat of stars and moon. Trying to explain how this works to a preschooler strains my brain capacity. So we went for pizza and beer.

When I learned that we'd have a supermoon rising in the east on Saturday night not long after sundown, I schemed all day long, mining the depths of my memories for a sweet spot to kick back and watch the mystery. This particular full moon promised to be 14 percent larger than usual because it's 15,000 miles closer to earth than normal, and it happens only once in a while. My wife was going to be gone until 10:00 pm, so this micro adventure would be a father-daughter program. It took me all day to decide on a location, and ultimately I gambled . . .

. . . and lost.

"Chloe, we're going to see the supermoon tonight." My daughter knows the words "super" and "moon." She didn't need much more of an explanation for this escapade. I filled our water bottles and stashed some cookies, and told her to get her shoes on. That's usually a battle, but this time she took off to her room, slid on some shoes and met me in the driveway.

She chose a pair of pink flip flops. I looked at her, sighed and then stopped myself. She didn't understand that we'd be out in the wild somewhere climbing up on rocks. But I did understand that I may as well give in now and keep my eyes focused on the goal of getting to the desert. Because when you enter into a negotiation about shoes with a four-year-old, it never ends without tears or tantrums.

So we got in the truck and began the 45-minute drive. Coming a long way since learning her first words, she now recognizes songs and singers. "Turn on Colbie Calliat," she demanded.

I tried to reply under my breath, "I like that idea."

Chloe just looked at me, utterly — thankfully — missing the second meaning.

Still, I worked the iPod menu, located the album and played it. We cruised east on Highway 60 and I noticed her staring out the window peacefully. At the edge of town, the desert takes over. Creosote and cholla line the roadway and raw craggy hillsides collide with the sky without a single condominium or golf course in the way. Just beyond these sights is a trailhead on the Arizona Trail, the 800-mile Mexico-to-Utah multi-use trail. It's largely a link-up of multiple trails, and the trailhead we were going to was near the mid-point.

And Colbie sang: "Oh it could be the stars, falling from the sky / Shining how we want, brighter than the sun."

And Chloe broke in: "Are we almost to the supermoon?"

"Thirty more minutes," I told her. Six minutes later, she was asleep in the backseat.


I found a good hill. It had saguaros, a view of Picketpost Mountain, and a decent rock for the two of us to sit and watch. The flip flops proved a bad idea, as you can imagine. If they weren't falling off, she was getting rocks in her toes. And if it wasn't rocks it was thorns. But still, she stayed true to the cause and quizzed me with frequency, "When will we see the supermoon?"

The sun dropped and the sky remained cloudless and crisp. 7:10 pm came and went with no sign of the moon, not even a glow on the horizon hinting at her location. That was odd. Chloe was antsy. "Did we miss the supermoon?" she asked. Frankly, I wondered the same thing.

"I think we should drive up the other hill," I told her. The feeling overcame me that I didn't like, that I had spent all day thinking of the perfect location only to put a big mountain in the way. We drove less than 100 yards when, yes, the moon appeared just beside the tallest point of the peak next to us. We were off by just a hair and it cost us the best part of the sight, the deep orange glow and abnormal size just as the moon creeps over the visible edge of the earth.

I blew it.

To Chloe, the moon was still spectacular. She asked me, "Did you mess up?"

"Yes, I parked us in the wrong spot."

"Don't be sad, Papa." I looked at her and smiled. She said, "I'll draw you a supermoon when we get home."


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# Ania 2013-11-06 16:35
Oh little Chloe, too sweet! I remember another supermoon the night we went to Gretchen's wedding after the awesome road trip to Moab! :)
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