In Seattle, the eclipse took place during the morning commute. It was February, and so the sky was grey and overcast and the sun completely obscured...but I took no chances. I remember staring grimly at the sidewalk at my school bus stop, wondering how much of the day I could get through with my eyes closed, maybe my stocking cap pulled over my face? On the bus, I put my back to the windows. As far as I can recall, nobody handed out eclipse glasses with hamburgers or Slurpees; we didn't punch pinholes in cereal boxes in my third-grade class or anything. The sky darkened, but it was already pretty dark. The streetlights came back on, briefly. Then it was over. For all intents and purposes, we missed it.
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I didn't get around to buying eclipse glasses (or crafting a pinhole viewer) this time either. (Or even running outside with a colander, which a woman suggested on NPR this morning, too late.) I had dinner with Sis this past weekend, and we talked about our shared indifference to this event. "What's the big deal?" she asked. She would have been almost 6, in 1979; she has no memory of that eclipse at all.
But I've been thinking about it, even though I didn't look. I took a couple photos after the high point, crescents of light in the leaf-shadow dappling the ground. (Grammy would be relieved; I'm still focused on the pavement.) And I watched ABC's 1979 coverage, the Frank Reynolds clip that's been making the rounds.
"So that's it--the last solar eclipse to be seen on this continent in this century," Reynolds said before signing off. "And as I said not until August 21, 2017, will another eclipse be visible from North America. That's 38 years from now. May the shadow of the moon fall on a world in peace."I had to check: Reynolds died in 1983. Sorry, man; I suspect you'd be disappointed.
It's what I keep coming back to: the recognition of my own mortality, in the context of everyone else's. That I'm unlikely to see such a thing with my own eyes, now, in my lifetime. Not without chasing it across continents, or oceans. I wish my fretful Grammy had had the opportunity. I chuckle over the point in the hazy, lo-fi ABC broadcast when Reynolds gets OH WOW! excited. I think about the gruesome, ugly, hateful world of the last week--just the last WEEK!--and I have a hard time reconciling that with two minutes of awe from the heavens, with Reynold's sweet and hopelessly naive wish for the future. The widening gyre. I'll be looking at the moon, but I'll be seeing you.