By Bruce A. Smith
Although I saw a very partial solar eclipse when I was a kid, I saw my first major solar eclipse today. I suppose for most people it was probably their first one, too. Here in Eatonville we had a superb viewing of the event, unlike my youth when I had to look through a tiny sun filter and gaze through the hazy cloudy skies of New York.
Here are my thoughts and observations of today’s eclipse, and hopefully readers will share their experiences in the commentary section that follows this posting.
In Eatonville we were blessed with clear skies and bright sunshine, and I started looking at the eclipse at 9:30 am. I only had to walk out of my abode, stand in the driveway and look up – with eclipse glasses, of course. My glasses were gifts from my neighbors, Doug and Jan, who got a bunch from their friend Sue – a wonderful communal sharing.
The sun was about 20% darkened.
At 9:45 I pulled my lawn chair onto the joint roadway I share with Doug and Jan, and joined their little gathering. A few moments later I brought out the coffee and donuts, and their dog Dakota joined us for the event, which was soon shaping up to be a unique experience.
By 9:50, it began to feel “twilight-y,” but it wasn’t sunset. It was getting less light, certainly darker, but it was still bright out. I walked back into my trailer to get apple turnovers and I couldn’t see clearly – my eyes felt weird. Doug had been reading the fine print on our eclipse glasses and it suggested that a wearer not look at the sun for more than three minutes at a clip, and only intermittently for the hour or two duration of the eclipse. Inside the trailer I put on my regular reading glasses and my vision improved. Hmmmm. Weird.
Around 10am the eclipse was in full swing, with the moon blocking about 60% of the sun. It began getting cooler. Jan walked over the the outside temperature gauge. “It’s 62 degrees, she called out.” Chilly but not too cold. Doug mentioned that the “radiation” of the sun was missing, so it felt cooler than one would expect for a sunny day. I walked back inside my trailer to get a polar fleece wrap.
Shadows became more pronounced. “It’s darker, but it’s not sundown,” Jan declared accurately.
At 10:20 am we reached out totality, 93 percent according to published reports. The sun only possessed a thin sliver on the left side of its orb. I was impressed. I felt I was witnessing something strange and weird, but I am unable to say exactly how. In nature, though, the change was obvious. The birds were chirping and bees returned to their hives. For me, however, I was just aware that the darkness had a brightness to it that was incongruous, but I also felt an internal weirdness.
By 10:30 am the arc shifted, with the sliver of sun showing on top and the darkened part of the sun stretching from “8 pm” position on the left to the “2 pm” spot on the right.
I found that I could only look at the sun for a minute or two. Then I was either bored or distracted, and sipped coffee, wrote in my journal, or joined Doug and Jan to walk around and observe the bees.
It began to get hot by 11 am as the eclipse was waning, and by 11:10 I had stopped looking – the last sliver of darkness I saw was about 5-10% in the 8 pm position. Fascination and boredom were the hallmarks of my eclipse event; watching an eclipse is a lot like looking at the tide come in at the beach. Interesting, but only for awhile.
One last note. Some folks call it an: “E – clipse,” with the accent on the first syllable. I pronounce it on the second, e-CLIPSE. Just an observation.
Regardless, I’m glad I saw it. Now, I’m ready to get on with my day.
Eclipse “crescents,” courtesy of Pat Roberts Dempsey