Eclipsed

As I bought my ticket to visit the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, the receptionist commented on what a slow afternoon it had been. “No one wants to be inside during the eclipse.” I enjoyed the thought that I would have the exhibits mostly to myself.

A couple of pleasant hours later, I stepped back into the streets. And there, to my surprise, I found a cluster of people–half oriented skyward like so many sunflowers, and half staring downward in the opposite direction, into handmade paper boxes. Eclipse-viewers! “May I see?” “Certainly!” And there it was, the dark little disk like a cookie with a bite out–the Eclipse as seen from 44.6° N, 63.5° W, 2:52pm. Walking the streets back toward my hotel I passed more of these friendly little knots, and cadged a few more views. I had told the art museum receptionist I didn’t care about an eclipse but in retrospect, I’m glad I saw it, when and where I did–even if I didn’t fly my Lear Jet there (with a nod to Carly Simon). And now, to WanderN Wayne’s account of his experience. – Sarah White

 

By “WanderN Wayne” Hammerstrom

In several Native American stories an eclipse is a transformational lesson, in other cultures an eclipse foretells omens of future or past actions. My observation of the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 was an awe-inspiring experience of this magnificent natural spectacle. I became attentive, sensual, immersed into presence. 

With my sister, we left Madison beneath cloudy skies, driving southward, bisecting Illinois on Interstate highways, joining a flow of others searching for the projected path of eclipse totality. We ramped off the congested highway into rural Christopher, Illinois, to hide beneath a vacant carport away from skyward looking crowds gathered 20 miles further south, near Carbondale.

Monday morning dissolved into a humid, partly cloudy afternoon. From our shady retreat we occasionally stepped into full sunlight to look up with our protective eclipse glasses, their certified lenses further reducing the sun’s yellow tint into a tangerine colored orb. As the moon’s black disc moved across the sun, disturbed circadian rhythms reversed their day/night cycles; crickets chirped loudly from darkening crevices, an owl voiced displeasure or curiosity, solar-timed street lights awoke, and people interrupted their activities to peer skyward. An eerie artificialness produced by this cooling otherworld luminescence unsettled us until the moment of the eclipse totality.  

As if a hole had been punched through darkness, the sun’s corona escaped the envelope of the moon’s obstructing dark disc, piercing the edges of night towards stars outside the shadowed region of the eclipse umbra. Diminished by Earth’s atmosphere, we now could see brushstrokes of sunlight radiating outward on solar winds toward edges of the solar system. Lasting only moments of convergence, the concentric boundary of overlapping discs slipped with a sudden release of light as the moon and sun diverged along separate orbital paths. The “diamond ring” celebration of a celestial coming together. 

Maybe we are more aware, perhaps, transformed by the eclipse. This daytime Children’s Moon, seen by youngsters unable to stay up late nights, showed that the moon has a companion, a playmate in the sky. Adults who remember watching two men first walk on the moon in ’69 occasionally might look away from their busyness up to see the inspiration of poets and the subjects of photographers. The eclipse’s natural duality of dark and bright, the yin and yang of Chinese philosophy, remind us that opposites may be complementary and interdependent.

© 2017 Wayne Hammerstrom

Wayne Hammerstrom has been a lifelong traveler who now wanders (WandrNWayne) serendipitously on journeys near and far. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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