Look down! An eclipse!

This eclipse caught me unprepared.

I do not have eclipse glasses and didn’t think about buying them until it was probably too late.

I made no effort to get in the path of the total eclipse and didn’t think about doing that until I read (reread, it’s old) Annie Dillard’s marvelous essay on a total eclipse (different from a partial like the difference between kissing a man and marrying him, hmmm.)

And then I really wanted to experience a total. But that was about last Thursday. Way too late, given how informed zillions of other people are about the eclipse and the likely traffic jams on the way to Eclipse Capital, Carbondale, IL, which is not so far away from here.

I am pleased to know that we will have another eclipse in the USA in 7 years. This one will be even better, longer, and more accessible for us Midwesterners. Assuming I’m still alive then, I am starting now to plan a family outing to somewhere in the band of totality.

Still, here at the Pink Lady in Northern Indiana, we had about 80 percent of an eclipse this afternoon. And I remembered, from my last eclipse experience in maybe 1979, that the best way to watch a partial eclipse is not through dark glasses or, heavens, with your head in a box. Not even by looking up but by looking down. And around.

If you look, the eclipse is everywhere.

It is in the slight dimming of the light and cool breezes out of nowhere.

It is in the quiet, broken by the passing of cars and their drivers too busy to stop and pay attention, by the loud argument of a passing couple, maybe a little crazed by the atmospheric conditions, and by the puzzled twitter of birds that are usually quiet in the heat of the day.

My husband sees it in an online graph, in the big dip in our church’s solar panels’ output around 2-3 pm.

It is also on live, yammering feeds online (not much fun to watch) and friends’ Facebook reports from the Path of Totality, always interesting even if it is just WOW.

But most striking of all, the eclipse is in the shadows. I remembered this from last time. It is something I discovered on my own because back in the day before social media we didn’t get much viewing instruction except Don’t Look at the Sun. I just happened to look at the sidewalk that time and noticed the strange patterns of leaf shadows.

So this afternoon I watched the play of the sun through the leaves, projected on our very own driveway and sidewalk. The irregular shapes of light gradually took on crescent shapes, repeated scallops, tiny disappearing suns, all pointing the same direction. The blurry crescents, hundreds of them, stayed strangely steady as shadows of leaves below them quivered in the breeze. Over an hour they thinned to slivers and dimmed as the air cooled, and then they began to brighten and fatten.

I sat in a chair on my driveway, in the shade, and watched the sun and moon play out their slow dance at my feet. I snapped a few pictures that seem unfocused but that’s how it was, and that’s how my mind was, too.

When the show was almost over I went inside. I went to the bathroom. There, on the floor, projected through pinholes of the lace curtains, more tiny crescents. The reappearing sun.

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