Totality is different! I’m back from eclipse-viewing in Southern Illinois, at a secluded wildlife refuge just 3 hours from the point of maximum eclipse. This isn’t my first eclipse, but it’s my first total eclipse, and I’m still in awe.
I trekked through a little wood to a languid river, with fish jumping at gnats, butterflies and dragonflies, a white crane and a raccoon that came up to check me out. I got out my picnic and book and enjoyed the perfect blue sky.
About a half-hour after the partial eclipse started, I noticed the air cool. The sky looked a shade darker, and contrasts softer. Even at the height of the partial eclipse, all I could notice without the glasses was like a minor dimming of the sun.
And then, totality. I was looking through the filter glasses as the crescent dwindled away, one moment appearing not to move at all, and gone the next. Through my glasses, the sky was completely black. I took them off to a touch of beauty: a blazing one-ring, hanging in the sky, like the sun had been plucked out and just a hole left behind:
(That picture is doctored, combining two real pictures I took, but it’s closer than either to what it was really like.)
It was suddenly twilight. The empty circle in the sky was sharp, perfect, and delicate. I was transfixed, until I noticed beautiful colors on the horizon, like the pink of sunset. I edged to the water to get a better view, not realizing what the colors portended: as I found my footing, it was suddenly bright again, and the eclipse was over:
But after a day of listening to podcasts in the car of a changing world and the ever-growing potential of fake news, the eclipse gave me hope. Our grasp of reality can seem so tenuous, but we understand that the sun doesn’t just dim. You can fake a lot, but you can’t fake this.