Eclipses

Because of the upcoming solar eclipse next month there’s been a lot of interest.  Two friends sent me the link to Maria Popova’s Marginalian on Annie Dillard’s description of an eclipse.  Annie Dillard is one of my favorite authors, but this is one I had missed.  O my!  She even notices the metallic color of the grass!  She sees more than I did. 

My experience of a solar eclipse is the combination of two eclipses.  The first one, July 20, 1963, crossed the state of Maine.  The zone of totality was on the far side of Penobscot Bay.  We parked the car up on a hillside where we had a beautiful view.  I had welder’s glass for safely looking at the sun.  I watched the sun shrink to a crescent — and then the clouds came and covered it.  I began to cry.  And then — the light went out of the clouds.  Suddenly where we were standing was dark as night.  The birds all got quiet, the streetlights went on.  Where we were was night, but across the bay we could see the sun rays still coming down on the town of Camden.  Then, in the northwest, I could see the light coming again as the shadow went on its journey, and daylight returned.  It was like some huge prehistoric creature had flown over the clouds.

The second eclipse was in 1972, on July 10, and the zone of totality went over Prince Edward Island.  I was living in Portland, Maine.  I drove to Bar Harbor to take the ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.  The ferry left before dawn, and I could see the waning crescent moon above where the sun would rise.  Drove the length of Nova Scotia to the strait between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  There’s a bridge now, but then there was only the ferry.  I camped out for one night, don’t remember whether in PEI or Nova Scotia.  The next day I went to the beach on the north side of the island.  Every dune was sprouting with telescopes.  I had my welder’s glass.  There were no clouds in the sky.  Again I watched the sun shrink to a crescent.  With an almost audible POP! there was suddenly a black circle with a glowing halo around it where the sun had been.  A chorus of OOOOHHHS! sounded from the beach.  Again we were in night.  Again I could see the shadow moving across the water towards us. Suddenly, there was the sun again and we were back from night to daytime.

For the eclipse next month, Hanover is just outside the zone of totality.  I have signed up for a bus to take a group of us to St. Johnsbury.  The probability that it will be cloudy is 70%, but knowing that unless the clouds are very thick we will still see the shadow convinced me to sign up.  It’s worth seeing.

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