Friday, May 10, 2024

A dragon ate the sun

"A majestical experience!" "Awesome!" “Amazing!” Those are some of the reactions people expressed about the total solar eclipse April 8.

I had a different reaction.

We live in central Indiana, directly in the path of totality, and figured on getting some good shots (my husband John is a photographer). We debated setting up his equipment at an overlook at Eagle Creek reservoir or the huge empty parking lot at Lafayette Square Mall, both locations a few miles from our home, but eventually settled on our own house. The best viewing spot happened to be from our front walk—at three o’clock the sun would be above the tree in our front yard.

I brought out our camp chairs and settled in while John set up his cameras. The afternoon was bright and sunny. There was little traffic on our street, as is normal. It was very quiet. My neighbor came out to watch, and the neighbor next to her. They kept up a running conversation during the event that was eerily loud. Then the lighting started getting very strange as the moon passed in front of the sun, and at the moment of totality it was dark-but-not-dark, similar to how it is at sunset. But there was no blazing red sun to the west, or anywhere, so it was like I was on a different planet—all very strange and unsettling. I was also disoriented by the eclipse glasses not allowing any light in at all except for the sun—you couldn’t see anything but the yellow ball in the sky.

It was cool, but not cool. Suddenly everything in my world—my yard, my street, the very sky above me—was unfamiliar to me in the darkness. Even though I knew what was happening, I couldn’t help thinking, “This isn’t what 3:00 PM DST at 39°46′07″N 86°09′29″W is supposed to look like.” It was a disruption of “the way things should be.” My discomfort surprised me—instead of the awe and wonder I expected to feel witnessing this rare celestial event, I felt nervous and off-balance, to the extent I became dizzy and nauseated. I can absolutely understand why people regarded an eclipse as a harbinger of doom. I would have been one of those Vikings banging on drums and yelling my head off to frighten away Sköll, the sun-eating wolf—or worse, searching (probably in vain) for a virgin to sacrifice. “We must do something to bring back the sun!” then a few minutes later, relief: “I guess making a lot of noise worked, the sun is back!”

The dizziness and nausea abated after a few hours, and I realized if I’d stayed in the house during the whole affair, I wouldn’t have been bothered at all. But I would have missed an exciting event many people all over the world would envy encountering—one I had only to step out of my front door to experience.

“O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon, Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse Without all hope of day!”—John Milton

Click here for John's take on the eclipse and the really cool pictures he took!

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