Monday, August 21, 2017

In The Shadow

Perhaps you've heard there was an eclipse across much of the United States today?  Hubby Tony and I were lucky to live in the 70-mile wide path of totality, and decided we wanted to watch the once-in-a-lifetime event with people. When we heard about an opportunity to volunteer for a viewing party at a local retreat center we decided to sign up.  In exchange for our time, the center offered a t-shirt, lunch and (the all important) viewing glasses.

Even saints got into the eclipse mood
Our instructions were to arrive by 10 AM to receive our shirts and instructions.  La Salle Retreat Center is only ten miles from our house.  However, after breakfast was cleaned up we were antsy and decided to get on the road, arriving forty five minutes before the designated time.  We figured we'd use the extra time to walk around the beautiful grounds.  When we pulled in we saw the tents that had been set up for selling eclipse glasses, bottled water, and cookies.  We parked the car, got our shirts, then staked out an area on the lawn with our chairs and a blanket for later.

There were already people arriving, though, so instead of having time to walk we were pressed into service. Tony's job was to help direct cars.  I was assigned to sell Cosmic Cookies (several varieties, all freshly-made in the center's kitchen).  The cookies weren't ready, so I had the chance to chat with some of the other volunteers while I waited.

The retreat center sits at the top of a large hill.  There were two viewing areas; the main one at the crest of the hill by the building's front door, and a second one at the bottom.  A wide variety of people arrived to watch.  Most of them were older, but there was  a large group of middle school students who arrived in school buses and used the event as an educational experience. I also talked to several parents who let their children skip school so they could watch the event together.

Eventually a shave ice truck arrived and parked at one end of the main viewing area.  A group of astronomers set up two huge telescopes. When the cookies arrived, sales were brisk.  The event turned into a great party.

Ready to look into the sky
In the days leading up to today the weather people couldn't decide if it was going to be sunny or cloudy. All they knew for certain was that it would be late-August hot and humid. Fortunately, the clouds stayed away.  The heat didn't, but I was working under a tent and had shade. 

The moon entered the sun's path at 11:49 am and continued for the next two hours and 54 minutes. Ten minutes before totality began the astronomers gave us a warning, and offered another a couple of minutes before. They sounded an alarm when it was safe to take off our glasses, and a reminder when it was time to put the glasses back on.

The total eclipse started at 1:16pm and lasted for 2 minutes 8.3seconds.  Shortly before totality the shadows on the ground started to look very strange. Night insects started chirping.  The temperature dropped, and the cars turned their headlights on.  At totality, the ghostly moon silhouette passed directly in front of the sun, blotting out all but a halo-like solar corona.  As inspiring as the totality was, the first peek of the sun afterwards was almost more awesome.

It didn't take long for enough of the sun to become visible again to put things in nature back to normal.  Once things were bright out again people began packing their things up to move out.  Tony and I stayed around long enough to help tear down the tents and carry some things into the center, then we headed to our car, taking our memories of a lifetime with us.


  1. You get to do some of the coolest stuff.

  2. What an awesome experience! We had 70% coverage in Toronto which was still fun.

    1. Today's newspaper was filled with photos of people from all over enjoying yesterday's event.

  3. You look quite fashionable in those glasses!

  4. Replies
    1. Going into the day I was a little concerned that the eclipse glasses wouldn't fit over my regular glasses. They ended up being a little wobbly but did the trick.

  5. Was totality like night time? Or was it different? We had 80% coverage here in Vancouver and the shadows got longer, the inside of the house grew darkish and the temperature dropped.

    1. It was more like a deep twilight than complete dark, although I did see Venus and a couple of stars.