After a year or so of anticipation (on my part, at least), the great North American Eclipse of 2017 finally happened! I was pretty excited, having gone through 2 partial eclipses, one in Salt Lake City in the late '70's and another in Madison, Wisconsin in the '90's. Athens, Georgia where I live now, was slightly southwest of the total coverage path for the 2017 eclipse, getting about 99.1 percent coverage. And if it hadn't been for a generous invitation to a lakeside celebration in the full eclipse zone, about an hour's drive from Athens, my husband and I may have been pretty satisfied with an "almost eclipse". I had eclipse glasses for the whole family and even bought the thermochromatic stamps put out by the post office to commemorate the rare event. The last time a the totality of an eclipse crossed the entire United States was around 100 years ago. So it was very lucky for us that our friend's kind offer brought us to the totality, and it was spectacular. And now that we've seen the whole thing, we know there is just no substitute. Wow. We're marking our calendars for the next one in 2024, and I even raised the possibility of heading to Argentina in 2019 since we've been there several times and have friends there. That's not so crazy, is it?
We almost couldn't believe our luck when we set out driving, because there was just no traffic. News reports of crazy eclipse crowds had me a bit worried, but there was nothing on our little highways. I guess they were too far off the beaten path for most people heading out of Atlanta. Richard Russell State Park, where we celebrated, was just off of the radar, which worked wonderfully for us. Our only worry was that big stormy looking clouds were starting to gather in the east. But there was nothing we could do about that, so we drove on. We figured that if it was cloudy at eclipse time, at the very least we would experience the moment of darkness, so we continued with our fingers crossed. When we arrived at the park, the setting was perfect. We had a picnic pavilion surrounded by trees, with an open "deck" overlooking the lake and a clear view of the sky. The clouds moved on, giving us clear blue skies, and our party merrily started the countdown to totality. Some swam, while others prepped for the picnic. Around 1pm we checked through our solar glasses and pinhole cameras and saw that the moon had taken the first tiny bite of the sun. Bite by bite the mark grew, and by around 2pm the light was noticeably dimmer, as though we had on sunglasses. In fact, everyone wearing sunglasses had to take them off at this point in order to see. The light shining through the leaves onto the ground showed the progress of the eclipse, too, in ghostly images resembling charcoal drawings. The light dimmed more and the temperature felt cooler. The shadows on the ground became crescent sun slivers.
|Hamming it up with our host. What a Sight!|
|The Eclipse is Visible in the Shadows|
|Cereal Box Pinhole Camera|
|Taken through welding glass with my phone. I'm not actually sure which one is the sun! Probably the tiny crescent.|
5 minutes before the totality, at about 2:33, gnats began to swarm around the trees and crows flew by, cawing in alarm. Cicadas ramped up their drone to fever pitch. The sky quickly darkened as if night. A dark shadow wall loomed behind us and everything grew quieter, except for the cicadas. We tilted our heads up with our glasses on and counted down as the last sliver of sun disappeared. And suddenly there was a ring around the sun with a bright flash at the top--the Diamond Ring! We took off our protective eye covers and stared in wonder at the glimmering ring in the sky. A collective gasp and cheer went up all around the lake and people shouted "oh wow!" and "I never imagined!" Some in our group caught a glimpse of stars. 1 minute and 20.7 seconds later the diamond ring was back, on the other side of the sun now, and the glasses went back on. As quickly as it began the darkness lifted and it was sunny again. The eclipse was happening in reverse now. The eery, dim light returned, and the shadows reappeared, but this time the direction of the crescent suns on the ground was reversed. The cicadas got even louder. By 4pm the whole event was over. We felt changed, renewed, illuminated, exalted.
|The Light Sparkled.|
|Diamond Ring starting again. Time to put the glasses on again.|
|Same branch as above, but crescents are reversed. I think this image looks like a charcoal drawing, but it is just shadows and light.|
|Slightly dazed dragonfly lets me come very close|
Click here for a one minute time lapse video of of the changing light before, during and after the eclipse, compressed from 7 minutes, 40 seconds.
I'm struck by how normal it feels today, the day after the sun disappeared from the sky for a brief moment. Shouldn't there be some indication other than our memories that this even happened? A burnt mark, a notch, a scar, even a small pile of sun shavings? But there is nothing to show that yesterday we glimpsed a wonder of the universe. Maybe this is what Terry Tempest Williams was thinking when she posted the statement, "Post Eclipse Hangover" on Facebook. The sun beams down today as it does every day, and as it did yesterday until about 1 pm when it shrank to nothing and quickly reappeared. Today the light patterns on the ground are unremarkable. So until the next eclipse, I'll dream of light slivers in the shadows.