Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Eclipse Monday

August 21, 2017: Jackson, MO

It the third monthiversary of the highly anticipated total solar eclipse of 2017. For most, a return to the mundane day-to-day tasks has eclipsed their memory of this momentous occasion. Not wanting my more than mundane eclipstical experienced to be lost among the many stories that would surely eclipse mine, I decided to wait for that magical moment that was sure to bring back the memories of that dark day.

About a billion and twelve photos were taken...and I think all but twelve were posted. No doubt you saw many interesting shots and some real prize-winners. (Did you see the pic from the space lab that showed the moon's shadow on the earth. I wanted to take a pic like that, but I don't have a high end camera...or a ticket to the space lab!)

When it comes to photography, I like to play the game, but I am an 'amateur novice.'  That means that I rely on sheer luck most of the time. (The rest of the time I rely on ordinary luck.) Months in advance of the big day I began making plans to get to a location of 'total eclipse' so I could point my lens heavenward. I'll have to say that it was a day that eclipsed a lot of other days in my life. Here's a chronicle of my dark day...

Eclipse Monday started early…12:04 a.m. I had driven from my home in Quincy, IL through St. Louis where I anticipated terrible traffic tie-ups. Apparently my procrastination paid off; the 10 o'clock traffic was light, the sky dark (dark because it was night). I arrived at mom’s house in Jackson, Missouri where a ‘total’ eclipse of the sun was expected later that day, Monday, August 21, 2017.

I’m not an eclipstical chaser or celestial scientist, but this was a special event. The shadow of the moon was to sweep right through the state of Missouri near enough to where I lived that I could travel to see it. I could choose to see the total eclipse in St. Louis (two hours away), mom's (four hours away) or even at my friend's in Jefferson City (two hours away) if my other locations were not suitable due to clouds.

Yes, you have to think about clouds. The moon was going to eclipse the sun whether I was there to see it or not; whether there were clouds obscuring the view or not.

Mom was already in bed and asleep when I arrived, so I texted Kris, checked in on facebook and turned down the covers in my basement bedroom.

Up at 7:00 a.m. A little groggy, I hit the shower, dressed, had a handful of mixed nuts (which mom always has on hand) and prepared to rush off to the hardware store for a 3-way light bulb. (The bulb in the lamp bedside my bed was out, and Mom’s Motel has standards.)

8:00 a.m. – Poetic interlude...
   Out the door to the hardware store;
   saw a few clouds, hoping not more.
   Fa la la la laaa, la la la laaaaaaaa.

Mostly sunny, as predicted, but off in the distance to the southwest there were clouds. Weather usually arrives in Jackson from the southwest. The current clouds were not the puffy kind…cumulonimbinocularous or something like that. Those would be OK because they generally move along quickly. These were the thin, expansive, lingering cloud strips...cirriusly. With these clouds he sky would be bright; but if they hung around they would surely eclipse the eclipse.

It was a $15 bulb…Outrageous! Then again, the package said it would last 22.5 years and save over $200 over its years of service. Pleased with my purchase I hurried home. Then, while tangling with the tamper-proof packaging, I began thinking about the savings. "I" bought the bulb, so "I" wasn’t going to save anything. The bulb is supposed to last 22.5 years and mom is currently 83 years old. In all likelihood she will not capture all those advertised savings. I sure hope that lamp (or at least that bulb) comes to me when she’s gone. Suddenly, the price of the light bulb seemed to eclipse the advertised savings. (You kind of expected that...right?)

Mom is up! She rehearsed the history of the adjacent properties which segued into an introduction to the new neighbors and their remodeling efforts. For some unknown reason, or for no reason at all, we STAND and talk...chairs all over the house...all around the room...and we stand. (I figure mom just likes to use her new knee. Why let it go to waste sitting down...???)

9:20 a.m. – The sky is clear. Mom is talking to the Weather Channel as they cover the eclipse out west: "...and animals will go back to acting normal and there you have it," said the Weather Channel.
Mom: “Humpf.

Light breakfast with mom.

It's not porridge, but you can
guess which is for mama bear.
Lots of personal chatter with mom. Texting chatter with my two younger sisters who also live in Jackson. I think our eclipse Monday chatter scarcely ranks above squirrel chatter. It's really nuts, but we amuse ourselves. I think Joy Kaye is planning to don a foil cap with her spiffy eclipse glasses.

10:07 a.m. – I took a picture of the sun with the special eclipse glasses over the lens of my iPhone. Yep, the sun is actually there. Skies are crystal clear. More squirrel-chatter texting.

Photo taken with my iPhone using
the eclipse glasses over the lens.
11:02 a.m. – Our tailgating plans are coming together. (We accidentally started planning an eclipstical tailgate party at 8:30.) Not sure if Amy is still bringing the smoked bologna or not. I sure hope so because bologna is round...like the sun...and the moon...and that's no baloney. (Hey! That’s no worse than everybody getting silly over ‘Moon Pies,’ which have absolutely nothing to do with the moon.)

Lots more squirrel-chatter texting about the foil cap.

11:12 a.m. – I just overheard a penetrating question asked on The Weather Channel: “Julie, can you tell us exactly why the eclipse is traveling from west to east?”

Sure. What we have is the earth rotating on its axis, the moon revolving around the earth and the earth revolving around the sun...and things are lining up that way.” (Hmm...'And things are lining up that way.' That was stellar! The camera did not cut away to Julie, but I’ll bet she is a bombshell beauty with a celestial figure. With a scientific explanation like that, how else could you explain how she got a job on TWC???)

11:20 a.m. – I pick up my sister, Joy Kaye, (in my car) from her work. Amy, my other local sister, joins us shortly thereafter. (My sister Cindy couldn't come. Cindy sells sea shells by the sea shore. [kidding]) Mom and I go down the hill to check in on the new neighbors, Mike and Torie, and invite them to our party.

They only recently bought the house down the hill from mom. It's the lovely two story house that dad built and everyone in the family would love to have. But mom needed to sell it instead of dealing with renters.

I wanted to meet these new neighbors to make sure they were neighborly neighbors. They seem like really nice folks; real kind toward mom. (First impression--Approved!)

They say they'll come up later.

11:30 a.m. – Friends, Stan and Millie join us from Bernie, MO where they would have been unable to see the ‘total’ eclipse. They brought sandwiches! (very thoughtful)

Yep! That's the carport eclipsing the sky.
Noon-ish a.m. – We decide to eat lunch even though the moon is moving into the path of the sun; or the earth is moving into the shadow of the moon; or…(refer to the TWC explanation above). We had set up a table and chairs on mom’s carport, the carport providing an ongoing total eclipse of…the sky. Every minute or two someone would jump up, run out from under the carport, slip on their magical eclipstical glasses and take another peek at the lunar lunge.

“It’s a moon!” someone shouted.

That was confusing; everyone had to look. (Translation: the moon had eclipsed the sun to the point that the sun had a crescent-shaped appearance, like the moon does in its various stages during the month.)

The tomato on my burger eclipsed the beef patty...fitting, I thought...and worth mentioning...on eclipse Monday. (No pic, sorry; I was hungry.)

12:40 p.m. – The neighbors join the party and kick up the wild factor a notch. (They said, "Hi, how you doin'?" We said, "Fine." Introductions made all around. Like I said, WILD!!)

12:59 p.m. – The eclipse is well under way with totality to occur at 1:16 p.m. in our location.

Joy using the 'hole in paper' technique to view
the eclipse. (Mom at her 'post.')

Mom, hanging onto a support post to balance herself, looking at the eclipse: “Just find you a post and hang on!…It’s going fast!” (Much laughter!)

Our results from our 'pin-hole eclipse viewer.'

1:04 p.m. – Amy helps me take another pic of the eclipse with my small point-and-shoot camera (on a tripod). I can't attach a filter on the camera, so Amy holds a pair of the eclipse glasses over the camera lens. (I’m sure I am the only person in the world to have had that idea.) I position myself below the camera to hide my eyes in its shadow so as to protect my eyes while fiddling with the camera settings.

Shadows on driveway cast by leaves.
We knew all about the 'pin-hole in the paper' technique for viewing the shadow of the eclipstical phenomenon before totality. We poked multiple holes in paper and tried various sizes of holes. We called it 'science.' We also observed the weird shadows cast by the leaves of the trees.

As the moment of totality approached we began noticing a visible change around us. It was like dusk or dawn, but noticeably different. The lights dimmed. We began to feel the uniqueness of the event.

Then someone shouted, "Look at the sunset!"

Of course, there was no sunset, or sunrise....

The phone camera photo does little justice. It's one of those moments where you just have to be there. It was the wrong time of day for a sunset--1:04 p.m. It was in the wrong position--North!
'Northern Sunset'

1:15:30 p.m. – The countdown.

Stan: “Thirty seconds!

Fifteen seconds!


1:16 p.m. – The last ray of pure sunlight is eclipsed by the moon…
The kids on the school grounds several blocks away went absolutely wild. (No wonder the animals were quiet!)

Mom: “I can’t see anything!

Joy: “Mom, take off the glasses. It is safe, the eclipse is total.

Mom: “I can’t see anything!

Joy: “MOM! YOU CAN TAKE OFF THE GLASSES. IT’S SAFE!” ((I think the eclipse, affected mom’s hearing aids.)

Look, the sun is setting all around us.




Look at the stars.” (Planets)

I fumbled with the settings on my big camera (a bigger and better point-and-shoot than the other one). I think I finally found the right settings. “Click.”

PUT YOUR GLASSES BACK ON! The sun is back.

1:18 p.m. – The next phase begins and we dart out and in to the carport viewing the fading of the eclipse as it is swallowed up by the glorious light of the sun returning to its normal intensity. (Hmm. Actually the sun's intensity never changed, just our perception of things.)

Once things were back to normal we cleaned things up, said our "Goodbye's" and all returned to our homes.

I’ve heard several folks comment about how frequently eclipses occur. (About every 18 months according to Brian Resnick in an article entitled, When is the next total solar eclipse? That seems reasonable considering that the moon perpetually casts a shadow somewhere; so it frequently casts its shadow somewhere on the earth. However, many of those solar eclipses are not total eclipses and many occur in far off places. (One recent total eclipse appeared only over the Pacific Ocean, making it really tough to drive in and view it.) So, technically speaking this wasn't really a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event--eclipses happen all the time.

Front to back: Mom, Joy, Millie, Stan, Amy.
As for me, I almost chose to watch the eclipse from ShawNature Reserve in West St. Louis County, one of my favorite places on the planet. However, I’m really glad that I was in Jackson, MO. I’m glad I drove four hours to visit my mom. I’m glad my two younger sisters were able to join us. I’m glad Stan and Millie came up from Bernie. And I’m glad we all got to meet my mom’s new neighbors and get to know them a little. All of that made it a once-in-a-lifetime event for me.

For an amateur novice clicking a point-and-shoot camera I really needed more time. But the celestial bodies were in motion and would not wait for me. I guess this will be my practice run and in seven years I can give it another try!

Yep! That's me. Eclipse glasses and foil
cap with a look of amazement on my face.
It really WAS amazing!
Perhaps you’d like to join us for the next one. That’s right! Jackson, MO is in the path of the next total solar eclipse in the U.S. on April 8, 2024. And if all goes well, I guess this total solar eclipse thing will be a twice-in-a-lifetime event!

Something to Take-away:
1. Life is short. Doing things with family and friends makes it better. We all acted silly, cracked a lot of dumb jokes...and saw a total eclipse! There is time to be alone; sometimes we need to be alone. But that day we made a cherished memory together.

2. Life is short. There are a lot of things to see in the world. We are often mesmerized by man's achievements, and rightly so. But God's creation always trumps man's creations. Sometimes you have to go somewhere to see something amazing that God has made; sometimes it comes to you. Whenever you have the opportunity, open your eyes to something that is uniquely God's work. Rainbows, forests, canyons, a full moon, a solar eclipse; the opportunities are many. Don't let the grandeur of God's creation become 'usual' just because it happens once a day (sunrise, sunset). And remember, a picture (photo) may 'speak a thousand words,' but a picture can never compare to the memory captured in the moment with our eyes. Don't forget to stop and look.

--Mark Stinnett