I want to write this down so I don’t forget. There will be other eclipses, and I may even get to see some of them, but none will be quite the same as my first.
I was off on August 21st, 2017 by sheer luck. I knew the solar eclipse was coming but I was so busy that I didn’t pay attention to the details. Which is a shame, because it’s the sort of thing my dad would have gotten extremely excited over.
Fortunately, his brother did, and my cousin texted me the week before to invite me to their black-out party. They live just outside Columbia, South Carolina and were in the path of totality.
Shortly after one that afternoon, I was playing Apples to Apples with the kids when one of them announced it was starting. We all stepped out front, eclipse glasses in hand. I couldn’t see anything from the porch and stepped down the two steps into the yard before putting the glasses back on.
They worked. All I saw was black except for one muted spot of light. Instead of a perfect white circle, a semicircle section on the right blended in with the darkness. We went back inside, returning to the yard occasionally so we could check its progress. The dark spot kept getting larger until the sliver of sun we saw through the glasses resembled a crescent moon.
I kept removing my glasses and putting them back on to marvel at how bright it was. The sun was so powerful that, even when three-quarters of it was blocked we still couldn’t stare at it directly. It was so strong that the sky didn’t change – not yet anyway.
We were in the backyard now and somethings were changing. The temperature dropped, degree by degree, causing the air pressure to shift. Even the shadows were affected. Instead of the usual shapes, everything reflected the crescent of the sun.
And then they were gone.
The moon couldn’t block the sun completely. A ring of light surrounded the dark circle, but the sky became as dark as dusk. We could see Venus to the right of the moon and even the bees and crickets got confused. The bees rushed to get home to their hive and the crickets began their nightly symphony.
We stared for a minute. It was 2:41 in the afternoon and it looked like eight at night.
Then it was over, the moon leaving so the sun could return to its full power. Venus vanished and it began to heat up outside.
Maybe there’s a lesson or a message in this, as there is in everything if you choose to look for it. But there doesn’t have to be a moral for the experience to be valuable.
It took me three and a half hours to drive home on what is usually a two-hour route. It was worth every minute of it to see the eclipse at its totality.