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Solar Eclipse Experience

Have you written notes about the solar eclipse? Where you were. What was most impressive? What happened you didn’t expect? What do you never want to forget? Other peoples’ experiences. Memories to share with children, grandchildren, and anyone who will listen.

If I were still teaching 6th grade Language Arts, we’d write on this topic for weeks. It’s never too late unless it’s so late that you forget. Because the deadline to submit this column is noon Monday, I’m following up on the eclipse now.

As August 21st loomed, I wanted to be in several places. Across town with my Grands in their front yard. At TTU, with thousands, to hear expert explanations. But months ago, I’d made plans to be on a pontoon boat in the middle of Center Hill Lake and that’s where I was, with Husband and friends. The experience was remarkable.

From the moment of first contact when the sun looked as it had been nibbled, I was awed. A feeling of respect and wonder. The Sun, almost 98 million miles away, and the moon, 238,000 miles from Earth, appearing to be in the same place. Nature’s beauty and miracles strike me spiritually. I wanted to hold my feeling of amazement.

When the moon blocked the sun, I expected gradual darkness. But brightness turned to a glow, almost yellowish-green. Was that because of the surroundings, water and trees? And when totality hit, it wasn’t completely dark. How powerful the sun is!

My favorite time of the day is sunset and the 360-degree sunset during the more than two-minute totality was spectacular. A multi-colored ribbon lay on the horizon. Tangerine orange, golden yellow, pale pink, lavender. Green hills cut the bands and the colors faded breaking the sunset’s path intermittently. Maybe a 360-degree camera could have captured it, but certainly not my camera. I didn’t even try to take a picture. I turned slowly in a circle, breathed deeply, and concentrated on the colors, the magnitude. Too quickly, the sunset was gone.

“It’s almost time to be over,” someone on the boat said. I put on my $1.99 eclipse glasses. The moon covered the sun and then a light so intense, like the strongest flashlight, glared on the sun’s circumference. The diamond ring sparkled brighter than I expected. I saw flashes of bright lights just before the ring appeared. Was that Bailey’s beads? I expected the beads to last longer.

My Grands were most impressed with the snakes, or shadow bands, which were everywhere and moved fast. And they saw crescent shapes, on a white sheet, through a colander and sieve, and they punched tiny holes in paper. The coolest view was through a vegetable grater.

As soon as the moon completely uncovered the sun, a friend who’d travelled from Ohio and took in the eclipse with me said, “This happens again April 8, 2024, and totality is only about thirty miles from where I live. Want to come?”

It’s on my calendar. Now, I understand eclipse chasers.

 

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Eclipse Connects Generations

 “What’s that book about?” I asked my 10-year-old Grand who held a book in her lap as I drove her home from my house.

            “The big extraordinary event,” Lou said.

I frowned. “What big extraordinary event?”

“Gran, the one we’ve been talking about.”

“The solar eclipse?” Lou nodded. “May I read your book when you finish?” I asked.

“Sure, but there are three kids telling their stories. Think you can keep up with three different stories?” Lou asked and said that the kids end up at the same place to watch the eclipse.

While reading Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass, a fictitious novel for students in grades 5-9 and written in 2008, I met Ally, Bree, and Jack, all young teens. Ally’s parents bought Moon Shadow campground because they knew the two-mile campground would be the only patch of land in the United States that would be smack dab in the path of the Great Eclipse. Bree, who was sure she was switched at birth because the rest of her family was science nerds and she pondered ‘If I’m beautiful and no one sees me, am I still beautiful?’ After failing science in school, Jack chose an adventure at Moon Shadow camp over summer school to earn a passing grade.

Ally explained Nature’s Greatest Coincidence. So called because the moon and sun look the same exact size, but the sun is 400 times bigger and 400 times farther away from earth so they appear the same to us. When the moon covers the sun, the air is like dusk, but with an unfamiliar greenish-yellowish cast.

Baily’s Beads were described as tiny balls forming a glowing circle around the black sun like a necklace of pearls and as the last bit of sunshine passes through the deepest valley of the moon, a huge diamond ring formed. The moon’s shadow passed quickly.

In the book, Ally was amazed by the solar eclipse at totality: the pearly white corona suddenly streams out from behind the dark moon in all directions, pulsing, looping, swirling, glowing, a halo of unearthly light. Bree screamed as the moon’s shadow zoomed like a wall of ghosts, and she saw streams of light fanning out behind the darkened sun like the wings of a butterfly. Jack was shocked by the fact that a fiery circle was the only thing that proved the sun still existed, like a big eye beaming down.

“I finished your book,” I told my Grand. “I learned a lot about the eclipse we’ll see next week.”

“Really?” she said. “I never read the fact stuff. Not the introduction or author’s notes. I just read the story.”

“You don’t remember how the characters described the eclipse?”

Elise giggled before saying, “I remember how one threw up all the time! That was funny. Gran, you should read other books that Wendy woman wrote. Some of the same characters are in them.” She told me about two other books.

It’s good when books and events, like Nature’s Greatest Coincidence, connect generations.