Eclipse of the soul

by Radio Somewhere

Today’s partial solar eclipse was visible during brief sun breaks in Seattle. I did not get to see it — but I have seen a couple of beauties.

The first was in Kentucky on Christmas Day 2000. It was a very cold, dry, sunny day with snow on the ground. The eclipse peaked at around 66% coverage in the middle of the day. I had made a pinhole device to monitor its progress, but gave up after a while, choosing instead to just enjoy watching the light change in the silence of the forest. It was eerie how the light changed; and the shadows cast on the snow turned purple. It was my Christmas present — I thought.

I saw another of similar extent in Seattle on June 10, 2002 — a day of dazzling sunshine. I forget the exact time of the day, but the sun was high in the western sky and I watched it looking west over Puget Sound. The air was still where I sat, but there was enough motion over the water for the sunlight to make glittery reflections on the water surface. As the eclipse reached its maximum, it looked as though Puget Sound was made of diamonds — at least that is how it looked to me. And the light had that same eerie quality of the Christmas eclipse in Kentucky.

Those two events were special enough to allow me not to be disappointed when the weather does not cooperate — as it did not for me today.

But what about a total eclipse?

Well, when I was a child in England, I had the date of August 11, 1999 etched in my mind as the next opportunity to see a total eclipse. It seemed so far off. I would be age 39 by then — and I just could not imagine myself at that age. But I thought about it often.

When that day came, I was not in the south of England to see it. I was in the emergency room in Wenatchee, WA — a rather horrible story I will not elaborate on. But during a calm moment in the storm of that day, I remembered it was the day of the eclipse — and I was missing it.

I was not really disappointed — but I was never the same after that day.

The partial eclipses I have enjoyed were plenty of consolation — somehow.

This afternoon, I followed the progress of the eclipse online. At around 3pm, the time of the maximum in Seattle, I went outside and looked over the freeway overpass into the cloudy gloom where I guessed the sun was. A coworker was having a smoke and we exchanged some gossip and remarked on the already heavy traffic.

Well, the Earth and Moon will continue to waltz around the Sun. And I will just have to keep dancing on my merry way also.