I’ve been fixated on the moon for the last two hours, anticipating the lunar eclipse scheduled to take place tonight. My nose is pressed to the window and I’m staring out into the darkness, the lonely outback lit up by nothing more than the bright orb in the sky and the dim staccato light cast from the train windows to the ground. As I look out to a vast, mysterious land, still almost entirely untouched by humans, the moon’s light begins to fade.
When I boarded the train earlier this morning, I had no idea there would soon be a total lunar eclipse. But as we finished the dinner we’d packed ourselves—avocados smeared onto slices of bread—a scratchy voice on the loudspeaker informed me I’d serendipitously booked an overnight train trip on the same day as this unique celestial occurrence. In a total lunar eclipse, while the earth completely blocks the moon from sunlight, it doesn’t go completely dark. Some light filters through the earth’s atmosphere and indirectly lights up the moon’s surface, giving the moon a red hue. A Blood Moon. As red as the ground outside the train.
It’s my first trip to the country and my Australian boyfriend, who hails from Alice Springs, a small town that is the outback’s thriving heart, far away from cosmopolitan luxuries and deep in the middle of the desert, wants to ensure that I see the real Australia. Not just Melbourne and Sydney, but the parts of Australia that have shaped the country’s identity.
In Australia’s vastness, there is also great loneliness. The continent is slightly smaller than the continental United States (2.9 million square miles compared to 3.7 million square miles), but the difference in population is huge—23 million and 316 million, respectively. Australia’s population density is just 7.5 people per square mile. To fully grasp this loneliness, you must venture beyond the cities. You must travel into the wilderness. The bush. The outback.