This is another of those times when I was planning to write about one subject, but my attention is directed to a totally different subject. So, instead of writing about dressing up or whatever I was going to write about (I’ve forgotten already), here I am responding to this one-word Daily Post prompt: Eclipse.
When I saw the prompt today, my mind didn’t think of any existentialist definition of the word “eclipse” but rather automatically thought of the astronomical term, precisely a solar eclipse, which, for all you kids out there who haven’t taken any science classes yet, is when the moon crosses between the sun and the earth, causing part or all of the sunlight to disappear from view. The most epic version of a solar eclipse is when the moon is close enough to Earth to completely cover all traces of sunlight — the total eclipse.
The first time I recall hearing about the term eclipse (solar, lunar, total, or otherwise) came when I was in 4th grade. One of our classmates brought in a newspaper article about the upcoming total solar eclipse (February 26, 1979, to be exact). Naturally, this led to our teacher — I’ll call her Mrs. Brenton — to help us learn more about the eclipse, including how to watch it. The key thing, Mrs. Brenton reminded us, was to never look directly into the sunlight. Of course, that’s a rule to remember at any time, but Mrs. Brenton left us with the impression that if we stared at the sun during the eclipse, it would burn a big black spot on the back of our retinas. So with that, Mrs. Brenton showed us the proper method of taking two cards, punching a small hole in one of them, and holding that card over the other card with your back to the sun.
And you know what? That card method actually worked when we went outside and tried it. Yes, we had a sunny day that Monday, albeit a bit of a chilly one. And, yes, we stood outside with our cards in hand and our backs to the sunlight, holding our cards up and seeing… a partial but not total eclipse. Yeah, for all the hype about the total eclipse, Wisconsin wasn’t in the path of the moon’s direct shadow. We did, however, see the moon cover a good portion of the sun, I’d say around 70%-80% of it. Not a bad science experiment at all.
But while Wisconsin didn’t get the total solar eclipse, at least we got to see it on television earlier that morning, which was actually much safer on the eyes than going outside. Mrs. Brenton turned on ABC and there was the coverage of the event, and I vividly remember hearing the anchor state “It’s midnight over Portland” when the moon’s path crossed over Portland and the sky was pitch black at 8AM. (You can hear him say it in one of the clips I discovered below.) I also vividly remember how we all watched with mouths agape at something that doesn’t happen very often in North America, hence all the big media coverage.
Yeah, it was pretty cool watching the total solar eclipse back then. It is indeed a rare thing when it occurs in the country where you live. As a matter of fact, a total solar eclipse won’t cross over the United States until… really?! August 21, 2017?! Suddenly, I have an urge to take off from work that day. I’ll just tell management that I’ll get a sudden case of being 9 years old all over again.