I woke up Monday to fog. Great, I thought. I won’t see the eclipse, only the darkening and lightening as the moon passes over the sun. The naysayers were right.
“Come on, Lord,” I prayed.
He heard me. He heard lots of us. The sun burned it off just as the moon started taking bigger and bigger bites out of the sun. By 9:55, it was getting darker every second. As the shadows dimmed, I felt a physical thrill high in my chest that I can’t accurately describe. I wished my late husband Fred were here. I wished my neighbors were outside with me. I wished I were at a party with lots of people. But my plan had always been to stay home, and my back, out of whack again, seconded the motion.
As the moon slid over the sun, I walked down my street, seeking other people to watch with. I found only a flock of chickens and a black cat, all huddling in place. I noticed the fog hung very close, ready to cover our houses again. I went home, feeling like the last person on earth. No one here! Later I would learn that my neighbors had gone east to escape the fog.
So it was just me, standing in my driveway with my eclipse glasses. It got darker and darker till the sun was just an orange sliver around the moon. The street light came on, a slightly lighter orange. Cold, I pulled the red blanket out of my car and wrapped it around my shoulders. The chickens cackled then hushed. And suddenly . . .
The moon lay right across the sun, a black disk with a silver halo. I heard people shouting. I shouted back. I grabbed for my phone to take a picture, although what I saw in the viewfinder was just a round glow. After my second shot, a blast of sun burst through. More shouts. It started getting light. The street light turned off. The sun began to show on the right side of the moon. The fog crept eastward. A plane flew over. Standing in my garage huddled in my blanket, I cried.
I went in to warm up for a minute. The dog followed me around, nervous.
“Come on.” By now the sun was above the trees, so we could see the rest of the show from the back yard. Little by little, the sun reappeared. I watched until the edges of the orange ball were completely round again. I felt the sun’s warmth on my shoulders. Reluctantly, I took off my cardboard eclipse glasses. Annie sniffed them and tried to eat them. “No!” I hid them in my pocket.
I will never see anything like this again. I wish I had remembered to look for Jupiter and Venus and for the weird shadows that were expected. But totality came and went so quickly.
Afterward, I look around at the trees and the grass and the sky. Nothing seemed the same.
While I watched the total eclipse in South Beach, Oregon, my father and my aunt were just arriving at Kaiser Hospital in Santa Clara, California, for an appointment with his orthopedic surgeon. (Some healing of his broken leg, but it’s very slow). Traffic had stopped completely. People got out of their cars. Doctors, nurses and patients were gathered in the parking lot with their eclipse glasses, looking at the sky. One of them handed Dad his glasses. He took a look. He was interested but not impressed. Ah, but he didn’t see the “totality,” that moment when the moon completely blocked the sun. That’s what I won’t forget. The rest was a lot like the lunar eclipses I have seen, but totality, oh my God.
The eclipse entered the United States on the Oregon Coast just a few miles north of where I live. As I wrote last week, thousands of visitors were expected. Stores stocked up on eclipse T-shirts and other souvenirs. Some asked their employees to stay overnight and work extra shifts. Police and fire departments called everybody in, and the National Guard was on standby. Signs went up: no beach access, no camping here, no fires anywhere. Stay off the roads, we were told. Traffic will be stuck in total gridlock. The Lincoln County commissioners declared a state of emergency in advance.
But it didn’t happen. The crowds did not come here. For us, it was another y2k, the disaster that didn’t occur as 1999 transitioned into 2000. The streets of Newport, Depoe Bay, and Lincoln City were deserted. Hotels suffered mass cancellations. Businesses saw fewer customers than they would on a normal day in August.
Now everyone is debating over why people didn’t come, why they went to places like Prineville and Madras in Central Oregon. Were they scared away by overblown predictions of horrible crowds and ridiculously high prices? Or did they simply decide not to take a chance on the coast’s ever-changing weather, the one thing no one can control?
We could easily have missed it. The day after the eclipse, we were fogged in all day. The rest of the week was a mixed bag, some fog, some sun, some clouds. Now when the sun is out, I keep wanting to look at it. I want another show. But it just sits there, glowing, while the moon finds its own place in the sky and the waves roll in and out as usual.
Besides the glasses, I have another souvenir. No, it’s not a T-shirt. As the world darkened, I walked through my garage and ran into my big steel dolly, leaving a cut and a bruise just below my right knee. I’m kind of proud of it.
Text copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017
Photo Copyright: johanswan / 123RF Stock Photo