You’ve probably read hundreds of eclipse stories by now, and yes this is another one. It’s taken me a couple of days to process it and why it was so meaningful. As someone with a science background, I knew all the academic explanations for how the eclipse happens and why it covers the sun. I live in Portland and, honestly, thought staying here for the 99% would be just fine. Really, what is 1%? It’s not that big a deal. Right? Fortunately, my husband convinced me we were going into the path of totality because this was a once in a lifetime event. I am so cloud we did!
We traveled to Salem where my mother and two sisters live. The young man with his thumbs up is my nephew, Amandeep. It was the perfect spot as my mother has a covered deck and we could see everything from there, in the shade, or step onto the sidewalk in front if we wanted to see more than the sky. I am truly happy to have shared it with my husband and my family.
Watching the moon begin to eat the sun, like an early PacMan game, was interesting. You could only see that with the eclipse glasses on. Otherwise, even when there was only a sliver of sun left, you couldn’t distinguish the difference. It puts out that much light. It really made me appreciate, in an emotional and visceral way, the power of the sun.
As the day darkened, I felt as if I were in a dream. Yes, it got darker but it wasn’t the kind of darkness one normally feels–probably because it happens so quickly, instead of over hours. First, we saw raptors flying toward us. Just before totality, all the birds stopped flying or chirping. It’s almost as if they disappeared. I can only assume they went to the trees and hunkered down. As the eerie darkness progressed I looked down the street where I could see sunset around us. That lasted only seconds.
Then totality. My jaw dropped open as I could see the sunset and the moon in front of the sun. But the biggest surprise was the corona. That light around the moon. It was much larger than I anticipated and something I admit never seeing before in my lifetime. I knew, intellectually, it would happen; but pictures I’d seen hadn’t done it justice.
The two pictures below are part of the same 1 minute time frame. The one with the moon and corona very small was at the beginning of totality. Though my camera made it small, to me it looked very large. The second one is a blow up of a shot 20 to 30 seconds later. Though it is not as clear (after all I was just using my cell phone) it is more representative of my memory of what I saw–the corona being larger than the disk of the moon. The round disk below it is some kind of reflection from my camera. I know it sometimes happens when I take a picture of a sunset.
My memory is that it was darker than this. But my camera automatically slowed down the shutter speed to let in whatever light it thought it needed to create the picture.
As I listened to news reports the next day, many people talked about crying and feeling a spiritual connection. I didn’t cry at the time, but I did in the retelling. At that time I was simply in awe. Awe of the universe and how it works. Awe for how small we are as humans on this planet connected to a solar system, and the Milky Way, and all other solar systems. Every thing interacting and reacting through the laws of physics, creating and destroying over millions of years.
No amount of science knowledge compares to the personal experience of this. If you weren’t in the path of totality, I would definitely recommend trying to find a way to experience this in the future. That 1% did make all the difference. Seeing the corona made all the difference.
I am filled with gratitude that my husband insisted on going that extra hour to experience a total eclipse. I feel truly blessed to have experienced this once in my life. It is a huge 2 minutes that will be forever remembered.