There’s no telling how the Aug. 21 solar eclipse affected the deer or the fish, but the day the sun disappeared had a profound effect on we, the people.
That’s especially true for folks who traveled north to be in the path of totality. The total solar eclipse darkened a swath 70 miles wide through the heart of Missouri. The Show-Me State offered a front seat for the celestial show.
I’d never seen a total solar eclipse, so I was excited on the drive up to the home of some friends who have a place out in the country southeast of Columbia, Mo. What an excuse for a party, a solar eclipse party.
We’ve been friends since high school and some of our old high school gang were traveling from far away as Seattle to see the eclipse. I’d get to see lifelong friends and experience a total eclipse as well.
Now if the weather would cooperate.
Wisp of high clouds drifted in the blue sky. Around noon, the curtain rose on the heavenly show. We gazed at the sun through eclipse glasses. Our hosts had dozens of pairs, purchased months ago.
The moon began its march. Soon the sun was a crescent-shaped sliver, but the landscape still basked in sunshine of a twilight quality. It’s amazing how much light a small shard of sun gives to our planet.
Totality came in the blink of an eye, quick as a finger snap. True darkness fell like an anvil dropped from above. All of us let out a collective gasp when the sun became a black orb with a shimmering corona, a halo around the darkened sun. Eclipse glasses came off. It was safe to look with the naked eye.
Day became night at 1:15 in the afternoon. Evening insects started to sing. You’d need a flashlight to find anything. I could barely see my friends standing all around beneath this unbelievable sight.
“Look! There’s Venus!” someone shouted. Sure enough, Venus shined like a diamond in the black sky to the right of the sun.
I took a few photos, but mostly soaked up this incredible experience. Looking around I noticed three frisky dogs that had been chasing each other earlier. Now they lay in the grass, like it was time for sleep.
The diamond ring effect at the end of totality is a stunning and beautiful finale. Then like that, the sun came back. Bright light hit our eyeballs as if someone flipped a switch. Glasses came back on. Sunshine lit the countryside again. Totality was two of the most memorable minutes of my life.
The eclipse lasted for another hour while we enjoyed a potluck feast and shared feelings of what we’d just seen. One said he was more impressed with the darkness on the ground than the eclipse itself. Another said she felt “cleansed.” We struggled to put the experience into words. Now and then we took a gander at the moon moving away from the sun.
Aug. 21, 2017 is a day I will never forget. I’m saving my glasses for the next total solar eclipse in 2024, when the path of totality is right over Arkansas.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAFlip
Sports on 08/29/2017