There’s another solar eclipse pending–June 10th, 2021. Here in Canada it will only be partial and at the crack of dawn. I plan to get up not so much to see the actual exclipse happening as to enjoy the weird lighting and natural responses to the covering of the sun.
Birds get quiet. The earth seems to take a breath, as if it isn’t quite sure things will return to normal.
I’ve got a few wonderful memories of eclipses – like the ones I shared with my dad and family and the one I kept the kids home from school for. The school planned to keep all the kiddies locked inside to prevent them looking at the sun. I thought this was an educational moment wasted, so I kept them home and we designed the over the shoulder pinhole camera tubes my dad taught me how to make and we watched it all together.
Of course they were quite young at the time so I doubt they will remember. Honestly. I wish I had taken more photos of these fun times we had as they only seem to remember my actions during their teenage years which, frankly, were not representative. They were challenging times.
I also kept them home one day when they were curious about the human heart – I bought a beef heart from the butcher and we dissected it together so I could show them how it all worked. With that and a stethoscope they probably learned more than was strictly necessary, but hey, I was a scientist married to an arts major and I had to stake out some ground…
In any case, they did get to actually see an eclipse.
The best eclipse event, though, was back in 1972 in PEI. We were up at my cousin’s cottage when it occurred and my dad had organized all of us with tubes and telescopes (pointed down) to stand on the dunes in Brackley Beach and await the total eclipse. It’s the one Carly Simon sings about. Perhaps that’s why I’m so vain?
As the sun was gradually covered over by the moon, dusk fell. The hundreds of people gathered on the hilly dunes grew silent. Dogs, who had been barking helloes to each other, shut up. The seagulls stopped crying out and settled down as if for the night.
The dark grew. I haven’t seen many total eclipses and it is very difficult to view one without an animal feeling of dread. We don’t really bother to think about how much we depend on the sun actually being present during the day until it suddenly isn’t.
The sea and sky and dunes were completely dark. Stars appeared, taking an unexpected bow, looking a bit startled by their need to show up. Everyone froze for the seconds when the sun was completely covered and we gazed at the ring.
The silence was total for a couple of minutes as the moon made its careful passage. Just as the light started to increase, a man shouted “Let there be light!”
And there was.
Everyone looked over across the dunes to see who had shouted and it was a guy who looked strangely like the Disney Jesus Christ, complete with flowing robes and beard. Or maybe I just imagined that.
The crowd laughed in a relieved way – you could tell everyone had been just that tiny bit uneasy during the strange darkness.
I’ve stayed up in buggy fields and ponds to see asteroids, I’ve gazed at the special huge moons, watchbut there’s something so cool about a solar eclipse. I’m setting my alarm.