Traveling to Totality

I took part in the great American pilgrimage to view the solar eclipse’ totality. In the company of my favorite camping buds, we made our way South to Anderson, SC. While I was greatly awaiting the moon’s appearance before the sun, the aspect I was most anticipating (aside from the time spent with awesome friends) was the opportunity to observe wildlife around 2:38 pm, 8/28/17. Prior to departing for the eclipse, my Dad had  revealed a story from his past, that peaked my interests in the present.

Flash-back; 7 March, 1970

Reflected in the lake, the graceful features of this great blue heron. The bank is red clay behind it and the lake is full of green reflected foliage

Great Blue Heron Photo credit: Mary Purcell

Thirty-seven years ago my Dad is twenty-one  and attending Florida State University, in Tallahassee, Florida. He hops on his motorcycle (I still have trouble imagining this) and rides the back roads out of the city, away from his peers. He keeps riding until he reaches a wayside field. It seemed like the right spot to stop and bear witness to the impending phenomena. Standing alone at the edge of totality he heard the birds trill and quit singing. The pollinating insects stopped pollinating. Dusk set in on the scene and the players changed, the diurnal critters went home to roost and  the creatures of the night were roused by the darkness. And there in the middle of nature’s “changing guards” stood my Dad, a city boy from Miami Beach. Looking back on this memory, he couldn’t help but marvel on how bizarre it seemed.

Flash-forward to 21 August, 2017

So what was it like? The eclipse itself was every bit as amazing as one can imagine. While folks 20 miles inland had clouds obscuring their view, our sightline was clear and we had  lake-front seats to the event. I can tell you that each of us in our camping party were affected by the eclipse in profound and yet markedly different ways. Personally, I felt such an upsurging of joy and elation, like I wanted to practically cheer on our Luna as she passed Sol, in perfect proportion. It sounds odd but the feeling I most resonated with was pride.  I felt so proud of our sun, moon, and Earth, for getting it so right. No doubt, we are alive at just the right point in history to see total eclipses. Slowly each year, we loose our moon by inches. Eventually, there will come a time when total eclipses no longer occur.

Five friends stand in the middle of their tense, some wearing eclipse glasses, some not, all loving the moment

Eclipse viewing party

As for my friends, some wept freely from the shear beauty. The corona really did shimmer and emerge somewhat latently like a pentagram. I heard my friend’s breath, sitting next to me, begin to quicken and deepen. Another shimmered and sparkled in total elation, as the sun set above us. For that’s how it seemed! As if we had finally reached the horizon’s edge, and were standing there beneath the sunset. In a way, you could even argue that’s what happened, more or less. Also notable was the reduction in ambient air temperature. It had been rather sweltering all day, and the temperature became altogether pleasant.

What about the bugs and birds?

There was a profound shift in animal behavior, in the moments surrounding the eclipse. The three dogs with us all became calmer than usual, if not downright sleepy. A wren bird sang out it’s “goodnight” trill and a crow called out that it was time to go to roost for the night. Then the cicadas, katydids, and crickets revved up their chorus. Each night, as dusk descended, the same wren and the crow bid their adieus and the insects scratched out their ministrations. These were our thee hallmarks of nightfall, in Anderson, SC.

Check out this video I recorded during the eclipse to hear the shift in animal activity and see what dusk lighting looks like at 2:38 in the afternoon. You’ll likewise hear our camping party’s excited chatter in the background, and then the great chorus that arose from all around the lake at totality.

Shooting Stars

To top off our trip, we caught the tail end of the Perseid meteor shower. And I made the same wish I used to make when I was a kid, naturally. My dreams, my aims, they’re once again aligned with my personal legend. I have to admit, this solar eclipse spoke to my heart.

The Solar Eclipse Sounds like Night

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