[Perhaps I’ve gone on too long. Everyone and their dog wrote about the eclipse a week ago. Rather than a news report (as if news exists anymore) I’m trying to capture the spirit of the thing. If I failed, chalk it up to me being a lame ass blogger stumbling under a topic beyond his ken.]
Are we a people who have seen too much? Have CGI and 50 channels of shit on cable jaded the world? All I know is that I was near ecstatic to see (through goggles) a tiny nibble torn from sun but nobody else seemed that enthused. (The alternative, that everyone else is normal and I make mountains of molehills, is equally reasonable.)
I stood there, baking in the heat, and watched. It moved ever so slowly. Periodically I’d remove my goggles and glance around. No sign of anything different. Interesting! (I’m such a nerd that “nothing has happened” can be a fascinating observation.) The sun looks the same even when it’s partially gone. Like a politician’s soul, it can be mostly eaten away and yet you can scarcely tell.
Mrs. Curmudgeon and the teenagers arrive. They’ve brought my lunch in a Styrofoam box and I’m grateful.
“Did you give Flo a big tip?” I ask.
“Huge, I think she’s going to need therapy after today.”
“Did my ‘to go’ order cause issues?” For some reason I’m worried about Flo; as if I’ve known her for years.
“Nope, the cook handled it. The cook owns the place by the way. She didn’t seem worried about the crowd.”
“I hope they take a few minutes off to see the eclipse.” I’d hate to think of someone slinging meatloaf and mashed potatoes during the only two minutes of totality in their life.
“I’m not sure Flo could handle it.” Mrs. Curmudgeon chuckles.
Since the eclipse is moving slowly I pause long enough to put the styrofoam box on the roof of the car and…
“Oh. My. God!” I’m shocked.
“What is it?” Mrs. Curmudgeon is at my side in a flash.
“I ordered a bacon cheeseburger on meatloaf Monday?”
“Yeah, we were wondering abut that. You feeling OK?”
“What have I done?” I shudder.
But the cheeseburger is adequate and I’m starving. Ignoring massive buyer’s remorse I chow down while Mrs. Curmudgeon and the teenagers stir themselves to take their first goggle clad glance at a partial eclipse. It’s 1/4 gone by now. The teenagers are chattering about the mashed potatoes and I wonder if I’ve missed the true meaning of this celestial event.
Is God telling me to savor meatloaf on Mondays and leave the celestial for a different time? I ponder this as I finish the greasy burger. It’s a pretty good burger after all. But it’s not meatloaf and can never be meatloaf. Unforced error!
Some of the folks nearby are looking through a glass plate, they didn’t make a goggle order in time. I pass out several of our spare goggles and they’re somewhat reluctant to take them.
“You sure you want to give these out?”
“Yeah, how many sets can one man wear?”
“How about this, next eclipse you buy the first round of goggles?” This works and everyone smiles. They can see a lot better through goggles than passing a glass plate back and forth.
Whew! It’s never easy for me to put strangers at ease. I have a theory that I look like a serial killer and act like I might break out into a monologue about meatloaf… it scares the squares. This time I did well. Everyone’s happy. Like the Boy Scout I once was, I’m always happy to check “good deed for the day” off my list. (Finding a little old lady trying to cross the street is a rarity y’all!)
There’s a feeling of camaraderie in our spot. Some folks came from 50 miles away, others (like me) came from almost a thousand… and all we’re doing is watch the sun dim. As activities go it’s self-motivated, completely voluntary, and it can’t possibly be twisted into opposition to anything. We could use more such events.
I find myself trying to ascertain what my human senses can tell me about the diminishing sun. You can’t look at the sun (without goggles) and the day is still very bright. Without goggles you’d never know an eclipse was drawing nigh. It’s still hot but when I bask, arms outspread in the light, I feel a little less radiation than before. It’s subtle. The sun can be half gone and you’d never know unless you were paying attention.
After a while I return to the shade. It’s hot out there, half a sun or not. The teenagers are in the car “chillin'”, by which I mean they’re hyper-extending the reclining seats and mashing Cheetos into every corner of the interior. (Kids do to a car’s interior what a herd of wildebeest would do to the living room.) Mrs. Curmudgeon is quietly reading a paperback.
I return to standing in the dirt, arms extended, as if I’m waiting to be stuck by lightning. The sun doesn’t fade gradually like a dimmer switch or youth. It’s still there, but eventually the world becomes different. I’m soaking it in; looking at shadows, goggles on, goggles off… observing. Around 2/3 gone the effect has become noticeable everywhere. The shadows are weird. The birds are disappearing. Some of the insects are suddenly quiet.
That’s the threshold. When the sun is 2/3 gone you’re in a David Lynch scene.
I’d promised myself to ignore my phone and camera. Others will take photos, I’m there to experience. But I can’t help myself. I badger my cheesy phone to take photos and the poor thing is out of it’s league. I have dozens of hazy blurry photos of a red dot.
It dims more. It’s twilight. Everyone is silent. The light looks oddly focused and eerie. Everyone is silent. Someone’s car radio has been playing the local radio station, which has been punsterifically playing Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. The radio is silenced. This is not the time for puns.
Traffic has stopped. Nothing moves. The streetlights come on. If there ever is a complete reset of all reality… this is what the first moments will look like. I’ve forgotten the meatloaf.
Mrs. Curmudgeon has put away the paperback. The teenagers are watching too.
The air is cool. It is neither day nor night. This trip was worth it!