One more eclipse story

And all that is now
And all that is gone
And all that’s to come
And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

— Roger Waters, “Eclipse” from Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon”

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The sun eclipsed by the moon, Aug. 21, 2017, Albany, Ore. Photo by Debbie Cockrell

The eclipse coincided with my birthday. I took Amtrak to Albany, Ore., the day before and fretted as the train passed Salem, Ore., and the haze/clouds seem to get. thicker. But, I did see a hint of blue sky ahead. Jim had arrived a week ahead of time for his own work, but sending me pictures of scenes around town prior to my arrival.

It was warmer in Albany than it had been in Washington state; the air felt hotter and drier, more like California. The existing clouds were thin, so I was optimistic.

The next morning, I was up at 6 am. I didn’t need an alarm, I was already amped. I flew out of bed and looked at the sky.

Dark, but it looked clear. The first rays of sun hitting the glass on the front door confirmed it was going to be a clear day.

We went to a location already scouted the night before. A country road surrounded by flat, mostly tree-free fields, with a view of a low-slung range of peaks to the west, which grew steadily darker as the moon started covering portions of the sun.

The light grew more odd, like it gets during a hazy smoke or smog event, though just a bit darker.

The lot we walked down to had been empty when we passed it the night before. Now, a line of cars were there, each with a tripod, cameras and eager eclipse fans waiting for the show. The temperature was growing colder and the wind picked up. I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt but was starting to wish I’d brought my sweater.

I was staring at the peaks and watching them grow darker, with my back to the sun, when all of a sudden, it was like a light switched off, totality’s arrival was that quick. The darkness gave us 360-degree twilight/dusk look.

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What appears to be a sunset in the west, that morning, during totality.

I whirled around and saw the sun with a perfectly round glowing halo around it; the center was a black orb. A total eclipse, live in front of me, for the first time in my life. Stars were everywhere in the sky, and off in the distance, fireworks went off.

The crowd around us gave off muted shrieks of delight, but it was like no one wanted to be too loud for the moment. We were all spread out enough that each person I think had his or her own “WOAH!” exclamation moment without overwhelming each other. I remember the kids being louder than the assembled adults.

It was around 2 minutes of totality, but it seemed like 10. I had plenty of time to whip around and see dusk all around, take pictures, look at the crowd, then stare at the sun for what seemed like forever, just staring back at us like a big, dark unblinking eye.

Then the diamond ring flashed, everyone gasped and clapped, and then with just that sliver of light, it was over. Light gradually began to return in that odd, hazy way. And then came the crescent shadows.

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Crescent shadows seen through the evergreens.

We went back to the house, packed, and hit Interstate 5. But it was already too late to beat traffic. We had six hours of this:

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Six hours, from Albany to Troutdale, Ore., where we stopped for the night.

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McMenamins Edgefield. I called and made a reservation from the road, and we apparently got the last room available. 

The next day and five more hours of heavy traffic, we finally made it back home to see the first of our sunflowers in bloom.

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If you get the chance to see a total eclipse, DO IT. Yes the traffic was horrible and hot at the time (we turned the AC off on the 90+degree day to conserve gas because there was no hope of pulling over or even off the road), but that is a distant memory compared with that moment of totality.

It is something I will never forget. And on my birthday, no less.

I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon, again, April 8, 2024.

 

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One thought on “One more eclipse story

  1. Great post — thanks for sharing! I got totally soaked in Atchison, Kansas, but the clouds parted for totality. It was amazing. I’m ready for 2024!

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