How the eclipse blotted out our separateness.
On August 21, 2017, great swathes of the country came together to revel in the shadow of the moon. For me, the days leading up to the event were filled with anticipatory excitement, not unlike the days before a wedding or birth or some other celebratory event. The fact that thousands—no millions—of others across the country were planning to join me in a great migration toward the path of totality filled me with a sense of solidarity. I felt part of a community of others whom I would never meet—never see—but who I knew shared my excitement, wonder, and awe. Humans.
Having struck out at finding lodging that would cost us less than our mortgage payment, we got lucky in the final pre-eclipse days. Esther, our Airbnb hostess from last year, came through with a room for us at her farm...complete with full breakfasts and home-baked pies.
So we headed out, my husband Bob and I. On the drive to Oregon from Seattle, we encountered little traffic and no signs of a mass migration. But when we stopped en route for the obligatory bag of Corn Nuts, our cashier asked if we were headed towards the eclipse and commented on the number of other people who had already been through that day.
Once there—there being Carlton in the heart of Oregon Pinot country—we went scouting for a viewing site while I expended considerable energy mourning my lack of photographic equipment suitable for capturing the event. Since I could not photograph the sun, I reconciled myself to photographing the mood.
As Eclipsian luck would have it, Esther owns an ideal hillock surrounded by fields of winter wheat, topped by a stand of trees sheltering a Masonic cemetery that dates from pioneer days. So it was decided. We would watch the passage of the moon from this spot whose quiet inhabitants would not object to our presence and might even be glad for the visit. So on that day, we and the residents of Masonic Cemetery #3, joined by a handful of locals, spent a couple of hours observing and commenting on the quality of the light. When the drop in temperature brought up the wind, we oohed and aahed as the wheat in the fields rustled. Joined for those brief moments by millions of others standing in stillness, we watched as the moon and the sun aligned to darken the day. The moment of totality came and went.
When I think about us humans on that day, I think about toddlers exploring their physical environment marveling at every new discovery. At best, we are mere toddlers when it comes to knowing our corner of the universe. Or any corner. We must be reminded that beyond our daily joys, sorrows and petty self-absorption there is an unfathomable vastness to which we belong—minute as we are. And in that vastness, we have only each other.
This eclipse, this hyper-anticipated, much-ballyhooed event provided us with a less than subtle experience of our solar system's clockwork. Is there anything more reliable than those rotating gears that give us our days, nights, seasons and tides? Is there anything we take more for granted? Perhaps each other.
Salut to all my fellow Eclipsians.