It’s an aftermath afterthought that has me wondering if this blog post is necessary. Everyone had their experience of the eclipse. So how relevant is mine? I answered my own question about whether it was necessary to be in the Path of Totality. It was. Being in Oregon we weren’t far away. It meant planning and braving the predicted epic traffic jam which transpired afterwards. I didn’t know the difference a few degrees would make so I ignored pleas from those telling me the eclipse was best experienced in that annoyingly named Path of Totality.
We had fun watching the whole eclipse, what we got of it anyway. In the end I thought of Johnny Rotten at the Sex Pistol’s Winterland show in 1978 when he asked the audience, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” It wasn’t Mother Nature’s fault. I cheated myself.
Our plan was simple. We turned our Adirondack chairs around in our driveway to face the sun, made more coffee and put on eclipse glasses. We knew when things would get started. Soon enough the moon crept across the sun, taking small bites. I thought about bringing out the radio. God knows watching the eclipse on TV or even the preshow coverage would have made me koo-koo nuts. Who needs squawking radio or TV commentary when you can provide your own. I was getting plenty of rapid fire stream of consciousness and screwy non sequiturs from my wife, Ronna. The sun looked, to her, like Ms. Pac Man and she predicted it would soon look like a banana. A neighbor strolled by. I heard someone speaking but couldn’t see through the glasses.
“You guys have the best seats in the house over there, all comfortable and relaxed,” she said. We didn’t have to go anywhere to find this comfort. Once the eclipse started we looked at the sun every few moments. I rationed my looks because I didn’t want to damage my eyes. No matter which ISO number the lenses were rated, I didn’t trust the flimsy paper and plastic.
The postman swung by. He was all business. “Did you get your glasses?” I asked. He said he had some, and seemed to imply he’d check it out when he wasn’t so busy. I had a cup of lukewarm coffee I forgot to drink in the excitement. I settled in for what was becoming a good show. I took notes, while my wife pulled out an oversized tome and began illuminating page one with phases of the eclipse.
“The sun looks like a banana right now. It looks exactly like a banana,” she noted. A big orange banana was hovering in the sky seen only with eclipse glasses. It occurred to me that totality wouldn’t look like much because the whole sun would be blocked out. I relaxed knowing I wouldn’t have to rush this blog post out. People would need time to decompress.
In the interest of science we contined our observations noting times.
9:55a.m. The sun looks like a cresent moon. It seemed to be getting dark and the wind kicked up.
9:59a.m. “When’s totality?” I asked. I kept forgetting that I couldn’t see anything with the glasses unless I was staring at the sun. “We’re supposed to see stars and planets,” I mansplained. “Maybe it won’t happen if you keep yammering on about it,” my wife countered.
I became conscious of the car noises, cars blasting their radios. People were missing it. Meanwhile I heard a group of people milling around in the streets like tourists who had lost their tour guide.
The dog seems to be freaking out in the house barking at nothing. I’m mesmerized by the long shadows coming from my pen against my notebook. We hadn’t even waked and baked that morning and the world seemed strange.
10:04a.m. Our conversation gets confusing. “What time is it?” Ronna asks. “10:04,” I say, “. . . I think it’s 10:09,” meaning Totality is five minutes away. “No, it’s 10:04,” Ronna said. Pure comedy.
Two musical conundrums occur. I always thought the Smash Mouth song was about staring at the sun when it’s actually about walking on the sun. Then I realize no one seems to know the guy that sings with Bonnie Tyler on the song “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It’s Rory Dodd!
I couldn’t have the dog’s barking disturb my Totality so I go get him. Inside the house I take note of the long strange shadow in the back of the kitchen.
Seconds from totality:
“What in the world,” Ronna said.
“What do you mean what in the world?” I ask.
“It’s crazy look at it. It’s unbelievable.”
At 10:09, Ronna tells me, if we were in the path of totality, we could look at the sun without the glasses. There’s a tiny sliver of sun that won’t go away. We’re looking with bare eyes. In the distance I hear squealing kids. It’s underwhelming. We need Totality, a traffic jam and an under fed, dirty camping experience for the full effect. It got darker but that sun sliver, that tiny percentage kept the sky lit.
“That’s all we get?” I asked. “I am disappointed. I thought maybe this would be a lot more fun. I had fun.”
“That’s because you’re easily amused.” Ronna responded.
I vowed to plan ahead for the next eclipse as I slurped cold coffee. So much coffee had me needing an astronaut diaper. There was nothing left to do but watch the moon uncover the sun. To make an eclipse experience epic you had to watch the whole thing. Ronna told me to look at the black spot on the upper righthand corner of the sun. “There’s no corner on the sun.” I said feeling smart. Ronna realized it was a branch. “Nevermind,” she said.
11:37a.m. It was officially over. The last few minutes included a three dimensional view of the moon and a sense that you could see it moving as it pulled away from the sun.
That was it. Despite all the hype it was over. The sun was a round circle again. There was nothing to watch now but television replays.
In the end, watching the eclipse became an excuse to put off chores like folding towels. It must have been dramatic elsewhere. The radio blathered crazy nonsense about poets writing eclipse poetry who couldn’t hold their pens straight during Totality. Facebook was on fire with people singing the praises of the event and all it’s magnificence. I was now a loser in Trump’s America because I didn’t experience the eclipse in the Path of Totality. Maybe if they’d called it something else. Maybe, if I hadn’t been so freaked out about traffic jams and had just learned to love them, I would have achieved total viewership. Trump looked at the sun without eye protection. Surely someone could have found the President a pair of eclipse glasses. Did he not plan ahead? Even with glasses there was no totality achievement for me. My life had not been changed. I did have commemorative stamps, but I still felt shame. I underachieved. I had been a doubter and didn’t think a small percentage would be a big deal. It made all the difference in the universe.
Special thanks to Ronna Craig for her epic moon and sun collision photo.